Adley Rutschman’s debut flipped the script in Baltimore. Kyle Bradish made for a palatable appetizer, but few prospects have symbolically represented the future quite like Rutschman.
Rutschman may still be adjusting to major league pitching, but his arrival signaled a changing of the guard. It also increased the hunger for more top prospects wearing black and orange. Fans could smell a Grayson Rodriguez debut before he suffered a strained lat, but Kyle Stowers arrived this week to satisfy everyone’s appetite for now.
Even with Rodriguez sidelined, D.L. Hall appears destined for Baltimore this summer. Reports of early success for Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg have everyone wondering how soon the duo could make the jump.
With all the top prospects dominating the headlines, it’s fair if a few players have snuck under the radar. As it turns out, that could be just what they need.
The Orioles selected Richie Martin with the first pick of the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2019 season. Martin made the jump from Double-A to the American League East and survived a roster cut that would have ended his time with the organization.
Martin hit just .208 over 120 games in his debut season but the rookie slashed a scorching .379/.400/.655 over his final 17 games. Martin entered 2020 with a real opportunity to become Baltimore’s shortstop of the future, but the former first-round pick ran into some bad luck.
Hand and wrist injuries derailed Martin’s career and interrupted an already abnormal development for the Rule-Fiver. The emergence of Jorge Mateo last season, paired with the hype surrounding Henderson and Westburg, reduced Martin to an afterthought prior to this season.
Martin managed to climb his way back to Baltimore with an impressive showing at spring training and a .295 average over 41 games at Triple-A this season. Westburg and Henderson’s promotions made for a crowded infield in Norfolk, and the time came for Martin to receive another shot. An injury to Ramón Urías and the Chris Owings DFA sealed the deal.
He may not be facing the same Rule-5 roster requirements, but the time is now for Martin. The speedster should play almost everyday and will likely man both middle infield positions. The 27-year-old played a pinch of outfield at Norfolk this season.
Martin is no longer considered a prospect, but a lack of pressure could bode well for the Detroit native. Martin recorded a hit in his season debut, tallied a single and two triples the following night, and reached base three times yesterday against Toronto.
Martin appears to represent an immediate improvement over Owings. It remains to be seen how long Urías will be sidelined with an oblique injury, but Martin’s ability to backup at shortstop could make him an attractive utility candidate for the remainder of the season.
Martin will likely stick to the middle infield, but he could find himself competing with Tyler Nevin for a roster spot when Urías returns. Urías can play both second and third and will likely replace the lesser of the two this season. Rylan Bannon had a cup of coffee with the big club but does not appear to factor into Baltimore’s immediate plans at the two positions.
Nevin has resembled a replacement level player in 26 games this year. Nevin could get some burn at first base in the second half, but he falls into the same category as Martin right now. Nevin is two years younger than Martin, and has far less MLB experience, but both former first-round picks are looking to prove they are more than placeholders for the talented infielders at Triple-A.
Nevin tallied 16 homers last season with the Tides and has five this year between Norfolk and Baltimore. Nevin is built like a corner infielder, but it remains to be seen if his power will translate to games at the major league level. His batting eye is held in high regard.
The Orioles are still a last place team in a rebuild but the price of a roster spot has increased. This club has more talent and there is more knocking on the door. Martin and Nevin may be flying under the radar, but the time for takeoff is now or never.