The Orioles selected former first-round pick Richie Martin from the Athletics organization in the Rule 5 draft primarily for his plus defensive skills. The glove and the arm. Tools that they need at shortstop.
However, there also is the projection that he’s going to keep trending upward offensively, encouragement born from his .300/.368/.439 slash line in 118 games this summer at Double-A Midland of the Texas League.
Martin batted .234/.311/.332 in a combined 109 games between Midland and Single-A Stockton in 2017.
“I think he just had a better approach at the plate,” said director of baseball operations Tripp Norton. “Looked like his swing was ... looked like he tightened up his swing. Obviously, he repeated that league, so second time around there was a little more familiarity.”
Martin slashed .323/.393/.477 in the first half and .283/.348/.411 in the second. He hit .294/.354/.448 against left-handers and .303/.374/.435 against right-handers. He climbed up and down the order, batting in every slot except cleanup over the course of the season.
From the Random Stat Department: Martin was 6-for-11 with five RBIs and three runs scored in extra innings.
The Orioles lost four players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, including outfielder Randolph Gassaway, who was claimed by the Pirates.
Gassaway, 23, was a 16th-round pick in 2013 out of Riverwood International Charter in Sandy Springs, Ga. He really began to get noticed in 2016 by slashing .330/.372/.511 in 50 games with Single-A Delmarva, but followed it up by hitting .265/.303/.348 in 114 games at high Single-A Frederick.
Staying with the Keys this summer, Gassaway batted .272/.348/.396 in 103 games. He never hit more than seven home runs over six seasons, but he homered in three consecutive games from Aug. 24-26.
Gassaway hit safely in eight of his final 10 games and was 6-for-16 in the last four.
The Orioles still liked Gassaway, but too many other outfielders bypassed him and they were willing to risk losing him.
“I think our outfield depth is really one of the strengths of our minor league system right now,” said director of minor league operations Kent Qualls. “Randolph had a good opportunity here and we certainly wish him well as he moves forward, but it was going to be a tough chore for him to overcome some of the other players that were ahead of him.”
* I heard at the Winter Meetings that the contract of executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias runs for five years. No one in the organization has offered confirmation.
It’s more of a curiosity for me and doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme.
Elias celebrates his 36th birthday on Dec. 28. He can guide the Orioles through a rebuild and reap the rewards from his work.
I was reminded by someone during the interview process for the head of baseball operations that, and I quote, “Great leaders plant trees they’ll never lay under the shade of.” The hope in Baltimore is that Elias can stretch out a blanket and stare up at the leaves.
* Dylan Bundy mentioned on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan how he recently began workouts to get himself back in shape and ready for spring training in February.
My first thought: What qualifies as out of shape for Bundy, who always seems to be in peak physical condition and is known for his strenuous workouts back home in Oklahoma? No one has accused him of being a couch potato.
“I just take six to eight weeks off and do nothing but hunting and taking care of my property and spending time with my friends and whatnot, and not really doing any kind of baseball activities or workouts or anything like that,” Bundy explained. “I like to take time off and enjoy the outdoors.”
* If the Orioles opened their season next week, Cedric Mullins would be the starting center fielder and likely the leadoff hitter.
Got a better alternative?
The Orioles need to find at least one outfielder, whether in free agency or trade, and they discussed a few options at the Winter Meetings. They’d like someone who can play all three spots, including center.
Trey Mancini got a good feel for Mullins’ skill set while manning left field.
“Yeah, he’s fast,” Mancini said on 105.7 The Fan. “That kid’s a gamer. There’s no other way to describe him. Just like (Adam) Jones.
“He did such a good job out there. He came up there from Day One and was not scared, was not timid. Just plays at 100 percent, like his hair’s on fire, and I loved it. He covers a lot of ground out there, and especially out in left field it’s always nice to have a center fielder that can cover a lot of ground.
“He does a great job out there, and just the overall way he approaches the game, it was extremely impressive. And if you didn’t know him you’d think he was playing in the majors for a long time.”
The Orioles will decide in spring training whether Mullins stays in the majors after he batted .235/.312/.359 with nine doubles and four home runs in 45 games.