Name: Richie Martin
Height/Weight: 5’11’’, 190
How Acquired: Selected in the first round (20th overall) of the 2015 MLB draft
For the fourth consecutive year, the Oakland A’s used their top pick in the draft on a position player. In 2015, the selection was shortstop Richie Martin, who had an impressive junior season for the Florida Gators. Despite being a college pick, Martin came to pro ball with rawness to his game. What is his outlook heading into his first full season?
Potential is a word that has followed Martin wherever he has gone since his days at Bloomingdale HS in Valrico, Florida. Despite being one of the youngest freshmen in the nation, Martin played in 44 games for SEC powerhouse Florida during his first year at the school and hit .300, albeit with little power. He was an everyday player for the Gators as a sophomore, although his numbers dipped. Martin thrived on the Cape during the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons and blossomed into a star for UF during his junior season. Still, many scouts believe that Martin is just starting to tap into his full potential.
Richie Martin Career Stats
Martin’s first taste of professional baseball was filled with ups-and-downs. He signed a bit later than most in his class because the Gators were playing in the College World Series. Martin was assigned to short-season Vermont after signing, making his debut on July 2nd, and he immediately got off to a fast start. He went 10-for-his-first-19 with a homer, a double and a triple. Martin cooled off after that start, although as late as July 21, he was batting .278/.358/.458 in a pitcher’s league. Martin slumped for the next month and saw his slashline drop to .224/.349/.327 on August 24. A decent finish to the year brought those numbers up some, and he finished his first professional season with a .237/.353/.342 line.
A’s minor league field coordinator and Vermont manager Aaron Nieckula says that Martin worked closely with Vermont hitting coach Tommy Everidge during the season to make several mechanical adjustments that he carried over into the fall Instructional League. Martin was overwhelmingly a groundball hitter with the Lake Monsters, but he started getting more lift on the ball as the season went on and hit line-drives and flyballs at a better clip during the fall.
“He obviously got off to a little bit of a slow start this year, but as time went on, he tinkered and he made some adjustments,” Nieckula said. “I think by the end of the year, he started to feel a little more comfortable with all of the work he has put in with our hitting coach Tommy Everidge. He carried that into the Instructional League, where things went extremely well for him.”
Defensively, Martin showed plenty of athleticism and strong instincts at short, although he did commit 12 errors in 46 games. A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman compared Martin’s defensive abilities favorably to those of A’s 2012 first pick Addison Russell during his first pro season. Nieckula was impressed with how Martin improved his defense as the season went on.
“Defensively, he made tremendous strides,” Nieckula said. “He already came in very athletic, very nimble. Tremendous range, plus arm, nice job on the double-play. He is a real leader on the field. A true field general out there. He takes charge in all aspects on the field.”
Video of Richie Martin from 2015 fall Instructional League (video by Kimberly Contreras)
When the A’s selected Martin with the 20th overall pick in the June draft, they saw him as a player that mixed both potential and polish. They liked his approach at the plate, while also acknowledging that there were plenty of aspects of his game that still needed work. Martin walked as much as he struck out during his junior year at Florida and he maintained a solid walk rate with Vermont (11.1%). He struck-out too much with the Lake Monsters (20.8%), something he will need to improve as he develops. The A’s also believe that the fact that Martin was the youngest draft-eligible college junior in the draft was an advantage in terms of his overall development ceiling.
“Where we picked in the draft, we were elated to get him. Getting this player, he is probably a little bit different in that his ceiling is enormous but he also is a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough that is going to get molded,” A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said. “From a player development aspect, it’s going to be a very positive journey to get all of the kinks out and take advantage of all of his athleticism and having that youth going forward. We aren’t going to worry about the results right now, but after two or three years when it all comes to fruition, you are going to see a strong player with a lot of ability.”
Martin ranks high on the character scale, as well, according to Nieckula.
“Very humble young man. Very respectful. He knows how to work. He has a tremendous work ethic,” Nieckula said. “Sometimes he overworks. Occasionally we had to slow him down a little bit and – to use the old cliché – tell him this is a marathon and not a sprint. That’s always good to have that. It’s always better to have to reign a guy in than to have to push him to work. He’s got that aspect down for sure.”
Martin has the tools and the on-base skills to project as a first or second hitter in the order. His swing can get a bit slow at times as he looks to push the ball rather than attack it. If he can clean that up, he has the potential to hit for gap power as he develops. He runs well but is still learning the nuances of when to steal a base, as evidenced by his 50% steal success rate with the Lake Monsters. Defensively, he can occasionally get too quick in the field rather than letting the game come to him, but he should be an above-average defender as he matures.
Martin is a non-roster invitee to the A’s big league spring training. The A’s have started their last three position player prospects in High-A with the Stockton Ports, but it isn’t clear whether Martin will start with Stockton or Beloit. A lot will depend on how the adjustments he made during the latter part of the 2015 season carry over into 2016.