His full season debut was delayed by a late-spring knee injury, but Oakland A’s 2015 first-round pick Richie Martin is back on the field and getting down to business with the High-A Stockton Ports.
Thanks to a torn meniscus, Martin’s 2016 regular season debut didn’t come until May 23. Martin is still on a progression schedule – meaning he has scheduled days off and scheduled days at DH – but he has been productive in nine games for Stockton. He has reached base in six games and has a .286/.350/.400 line with a double, a homer, three walks and two stolen bases going into the Ports’ game versus the Visalia Rawhide on Monday.
Martin says that rehab was a slog, but he kept his focus on daily tasks to avoid looking too far ahead and rushing the process.
“It was pretty rough. It wasn’t really enjoyable, but it happens in baseball,” Martin said before the Ports’ 6-5 loss to Visalia on Sunday. “I was [in Arizona for rehab] for about eight weeks. I just had to take care of business and take it one day at a time because there was nothing you could really do about it at that point. I had to make the most of each day.”
Once Martin’s knee healed, he had to get his timing back, which took a little bit of time.
“It’s frustrating because you put all of that work in during the off-season and then you have a set-back and you have to take all of that time off,” Martin said. “You kind of feel like you have to start from the beginning."
One year removed from hearing his name called as the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Martin says he has learned a lot since turning pro. After making his pro debut with short-season Vermont, Martin participated in the A’s fall Instructional League. He then spent the first half of spring training in big league camp. Martin appeared in only five big league spring games, but he spent a lot of time working with and observing how the A’s veteran players went about their business.
“Seeing guys like Stephen Vogt and Coco Crisp getting there at 5:45 in the morning and be the last ones to leave, that left a lasting impression on me,” Martin said. “Seeing guys like that putting that kind of work in, you really know what it takes to be successful.”
Success was something that Martin and his University of Florida teammates experienced a lot of, especially last season, when the Gators reached the final four of the College World Series in Omaha. Martin hit .299 with an 861 OPS for the Gators during the regular season last year. A high-profile prospect for most of his collegiate career, Martin had plenty of first-round buzz leading up to the draft. Martin says that his focus on his team’s goal of winning an NCAA championship helped to mitigate the distraction of the draft.
“Leading up to the draft, it was good at Florida because our main focus was getting to the [College] World Series. We had a lot of guys who were potential draft prospects, so we had one goal in mind, and that was getting to the World Series and win it,” Martin said. “Unfortunately, we came up a bit short, but we had really good talent and a good bond on that team.”
Several of Martin’s former Gator teammates are likely to hear their names called during the draft this week. Martin says he keeps in regular contact with many on the current Florida squad, including potential 2016 first-round pick A.J. Puk, Buddy Reed and Logan Shore.
“I actually talk to them everyday. We have a group chat where we send funny stuff to each other,” Martin said. “I’m sure they will all do well. They have a really good team and it is probably the same for them as it was for us last year. Obviously, it’s in the back of our minds, but we wanted to win really badly. That’s all we cared about.”
The Florida program has had a pipeline of talent feed into professional baseball over the years, and Martin had plenty of contacts in the pro game before he was drafted. He said their assessment of life as a pro has, for the most part, lined up with his experience since signing with Oakland. One thing that has jumped out at Martin has been the offense in the Cal League. Since he joined the Ports, they have been involved in several high-scoring games, including a 29-11 game in Lancaster on May 26.
“The scoring has definitely been crazy,” Martin said. “Lancaster, that park is definitely out of control.”