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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Richie Martin

The former Orioles Rule 5 pick was dropped from the roster over the offseason, but now he’s back again.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Over the offseason, Camden Chat published an article about each member of the Orioles 40-man roster. During the 2022 season, we will update on new arrivals after they make it to the roster.

How he arrived: Contract selected 6/11/22; originally came to Orioles in Rule 5 draft 12/13/18

Who left: Chris Owings designated for assignment 6/8/22

In this era of rebuilding, Orioles fans have gotten to see their share of a variety of different kinds of player. One that shows up again and again is a player who used to have some prospect pedigree who’s never quite put it together, who finds his way to the Orioles looking to get a second chance. Sometimes, a player whiffs on that second chance and the O’s give him a third chance anyway. Here we are looking at Richie Martin again.

Part of a 2015 University of Florida team that has gone on to generate 12 big leaguers, Martin was selected in the first round of that year’s draft at #20 overall by the Oakland Athletics. Three other 2022 Orioles are hanging around from that same round and year: Dillon Tate (#4), Ryan Mountcastle (#36), and Tyler Nevin (#38), with one more having come and gone - DJ Stewart (#25).

Martin never hit very much as a professional, so when the time came to decide whether to put him on the 40-man roster after the 2018 season, the Athletics chose not to do so. They did this despite Martin, in his age 23 season, batting .300/.368/.439 at Double-A, his best hitting as a pro up to that point.

With the bevy of Rule 5-eligible prospects available to them at the top of the draft, the Orioles pounced on Martin. A team that just parted ways from its GM and manager after a 47-115 season can afford to take a flyer on a relatively young shortstop and see what happens. There were no MLB-ready infield prospects in the system at the time.

The Orioles plugged in Martin as the Opening Day shortstop and used him there a lot over the course of the season. He started more than half of the team’s games at the position, and counting times entering as a defensive replacement, played 120 games there. That’s a lot.

There was one major issue: Martin wasn’t hitting a lick. By season’s end he had this batting line for his MLB debut season: .208/.260/.322. One might have said, okay, so he can’t hit, but is he at least making up for it with his glove? That was the second major issue: He wasn’t fielding either. By the same Defensive Runs Saved metric where 2022 O’s shortstop Jorge Mateo has dazzled with +12 runs saved to date, Martin finished the 2019 season at -11 runs.

The reward for carrying a Rule 5 player for the whole season is that the team gains full control of his rights and can option him to the minors for subsequent seasons. As we all know, there did not end up being a minor league season in 2020. Martin did not break into the mix during those 60 games, even though free agent signing José Iglesias only started 22 games at shortstop.

With the return of the minors in 2021, Martin finally had a chance to get some Triple-A seasoning. Two weeks into the season, he suffered a wrist fracture that knocked him out of action until August. Some players just have no kind of luck. Martin was playing center field, not shortstop, when he suffered the fracture. After the injury had healed, and the trade deadline had passed with free agent signing Freddy Galvis having been traded, Martin got another shot.

The second chance did not go any better than the first. Over 37 games, Martin’s hitting was even worse than his debut season, dropping 26 points of OPS. His fielding was also worse, at least as measured by DRS. In roughly a third as many innings as 2019, Martin was at -7 runs; Statcast’s Outs Above Average put him at -6.

The Orioles dropped Martin from the 40-man roster over the offseason. I thought that would be that, but he stayed in the organization and now he’s back. Martin is the fifth player who was on the 2021 Orioles, removed from the 40-man roster, and has returned to the 2022 Orioles. This is big rebuilding/tanking energy.

The bust signing of Chris Owings as a utility guy and the oblique injury of Ramón Urías created an opportunity. Prospect Terrin Vavra might have been the next choice, except he missed about six weeks due to a hamstring injury. Martin, OPSing .823 at Norfolk so far this year, with 17 stolen bases, was the next guy in line after that. It seems like there will be a roster spot for him as long as Urías is hurt. Oblique injuries tend to stretch out longer than initial estimates.

Recent promotions of Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson to Norfolk, along with Vavra’s return from that hamstring injury, can offer fans hope that a better Orioles infield is coming in the near future. Martin’s return is a reminder that future is not here yet. Perhaps he can at least do enough with this latest stint to prove he deserves to hang around as a utility player. Or he will be a guy whose name you forget on a future Sporcle quiz.

Still to come: Jonathan Araúz