The weaknesses in the 2015 MLB Draft class were well-documented going into the draft’s first day on Monday, June 8. However, it took only a few picks for the strength of the class to be fully illuminated. For the first time in the draft’s history, the first three overall picks were shortstops. The shortstop selections didn’t end there. Of the 75 picks made on Day One of the 2015 MLB Draft, 10 of those picks were shortstops.
The Oakland A’s double-dipped into that shortstop pool. With their first selection, the A’s chose Florida’s Richie Martin. Then with pick #63, Oakland selected Alabama’s Mikey White. In a post-draft conference call, A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota said it was no accident that the A’s took two shortstops with their first selections.
“We really thought that college shortstops were a strength in this draft,” Kubota said. “That is more how we ended up with the guys we ended up picking rather than it being about any specific strategy about taking two shortstops.”
Shortstop has been a position of strength in the Oakland A’s farm system the past few seasons. In 2012, the A’s spent their first two draft picks on high school shortstops Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson. Both picks rose to the top of the A’s prospect list before being traded for established major-league stars. Russell made his major-league debut with the Chicago Cubs earlier this year and Robertson is one of the top prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays’ chain. Even with Russell and Robertson gone from the organization, the A’s entered the 2015 season with some positional depth at short with top prospects Franklin Barreto, Yairo Munoz and Chad Pinder manning the position.
Despite the A’s depth at short, Kubota isn’t worried about where in the A’s system Martin or White will ultimately fit in.
“At the end of the day, you can never have too many good players,” Kubota said. “That stuff will all just shake itself out over time.”
Martin, who was from the same 2012 Florida high school draft class as Russell, is a player the A’s have liked for four or five years, Kubota said. Kubota pointed to Martin’s make-up as one of the factors the A’s considered when taking him 20th overall.
“We have a good relationship with him,” Kubota said. “We know the kid, we think, and we know the make-up. That certainly helps us make this decision.
“We think he is just a baseball rat. We think he is going to maximize the ability that he has. He is a team leader and a hard worker. He just has a positive baseball make-up.”
Kubota also raved about Martin’s physical tools and how those tools translate to the field.
“There’s a lot of things we like about Richie,” Kubota said. “First and foremost, it’s his tools and athleticism. He’s a tremendous athlete. He can really run. He can really throw. We think his defensive ability has the chance to be special. We think he has a chance to do pretty much everything at shortstop. We really like the energy and athleticism that he brings.”
The A’s 2014 top selection, Matt Chapman, was considered one of the top defensive third basemen in last year’s draft. Kubota sees similar potential at shortstop with Martin.
“He’s an outstanding athlete, so his agility and his quickness translates to big range [at short],” Kubota said. “At the same time, we feel good about his ability to make the routine play. He also has the arm strength to make the routine throw and all of the necessary throws. There is nothing we don’t like about his defense.”
Martin won’t turn 21 until December, making him one of the youngest players in the college draft pool this year. Only 17 when he stepped onto the Florida campus, Martin developed somewhat slowly both at the plate and in the field. He hit only .265 in 2014 for Florida, but that summer, Martin hit .364 in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League. He finished that summer ranked the eighth-best prospect on the Cape and his draft stock rose. Martin followed-up that Cape performance with a career-best season with Florida. In helping the Gators reach the College World Series, Martin hit .292 with 18 extra-base hits, 33 walks, 16 hit-by-pitches and 20 stolen bases in 243 at-bats. His K:BB (34:33) was nearly 1:1.
Kubota said that Martin’s performance last summer and this spring was a validation of the A’s scouts’ evaluations of Martin. That Martin is nearly a full year younger than the average college junior made him even more enticing to the A’s scouting department.
“You just naturally can see potential for additional physical maturity and additional baseball development just purely based on the age,” Kubota said.
Like Martin, White had a career-best year in 2015. A three-year starter at Alabama, White was the Crimon Tide’s leading offensive performer in 2015. He led the team in hitting (.339), OBP (.444), SLG (.537) and walks. White collected 19 doubles and was eight-of-nine in stolen bases. Another baseball rat, White hit .308 during his three years at Alabama.
Kubota said White’s career-best season in 2015 was a result of his natural maturation as a player. White is considered more of an offense-first, defense-second shortstop prospect, but Kubota says White has a chance to stick at shortstop.
“We have a lot of guys who are very positive about his ability to stay at shortstop,” Kubota said.
While the similarities between White and Martin are obvious, they are fairly different players.
“They are comparable in that they are high-performing shortstops from arguably the best college conference in the county,” Kubota said. “Their physical abilities are probably a little bit different. Richie is a little bit more explosive and Mikey might have a bit more of a power component to his game, but at the end of the day, the strongest similarity is that they are high-performing college shortstops.”
The draft resumes on Tuesday with rounds three through 10.
For more on Richie Martin, visit his player profile page here.
For more on Mikey White, visit his player profile page here.