Will Martin be off the active roster in 2020?
Too soon to know.
Martin can ditch his Rule 5 status, which requires him to stay in the majors, as he’s done since opening day. He’s made the jump from the Double-A level and the Orioles have plenty of time to determine whether he’s set to resume his platoon role next season or ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk.
“I think Richie has improved a lot over the course of this year,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Still got a lot of developing and growing to do offensively. He’s done a really nice job defensively, and I think he can get even better on the defensive side as well.
“He’s never played in Triple-A, so I think that’s a decision that we’ll make, probably in spring training, about what’s the right thing to do for Richie. But he’s made big strides this year offensively and has been solid all year for us at shortstop.”
Unlike past Rule 5 selections Anthony Santander and Pedro Araujo, Martin wasn’t plucked out of A ball during the Winter Meetings. But he’s never played in Triple-A, and there’s always the possibility that he could begin the 2020 season with the Norfolk Tides.
Some of it depends on how he performs. Some of it depends on what the Orioles do with their middle infield.
Do they keep Jonathan Villar, who’s shared the position with Martin? Do they bring in another shortstop?
Martin is batting .196/.248/.296 in 111 games, his average never higher than .201.
Whether the overall experience in Triple-A would benefit Martin, for however long it lasted, is open to debate. And again, there’s no rush to draw a conclusion.
“I don’t know,” Hyde said. “We’ll see in spring training next year. That’s kind of far ahead. I’m not really thinking about that as much as I’d love to see him try to finish this season strong. But yeah, we’ll evaluate at the end of the season and in spring training and make a decision from there.”
* Austin Hays is the frontrunner for the center field job on opening day, as long as he stays healthy and is hitting in spring training.
Hyde is convinced that Hays can handle the position, and at a high level.
“Yeah, I was thinking during the game. I saw A.J. Pollock young, and he’s got a little A.J. Pollock in there for me,” Hyde said. “A guy that can play center field, that can really throw, that’s athletic and can go get it in the gap. But also a tough out and a guy that can leave the ballpark on you. I think for me that’s a pretty good comp. When I was watching both those guys tonight I was thinking back to what A.J. looked like a handful of years ago.
“Yeah, but now it’s about getting major league at-bats and continuing to develop. And once you get here it’s not easy to stay here, so you’ve got to continue to work and improve, and there’s going to be adjustments made to him. I think you saw him get on some elevated plus fastballs tonight. I think as the league sees that, he might not be getting elevated plus fastballs. He might be getting breaking balls down. So it’s just all those types of things. And learning how to be a major league hitter.”
Hays looked like one last night while registering his first career three-hit game. He also seems to make at least one really impressive catch a night. I counted three in his debut.
“I wouldn’t say it’s anything too crazy or too different,” he said. “I think that third deck does play a little bit of a factor with those line drives that don’t start in the third deck, but once they start to rise they get to the third deck. It’s just about angles and making sure you take deep routes.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on since spring training. Butch Davis was working with us down there on defense in Triple-A, so as long as I can keep grinding at that every day, it should be OK.”
* Former Orioles first base coach and outfielder instructor Wayne Kirby is back in baseball after remaining at his Las Vegas home during the 2019 season.
Kirby has been hired by the Braves as minor league outfield coordinator. He’s headed to the new spring training complex in North Port, Fla.
Back to teaching, which he really enjoys.
Kirby was part of former manager Buck Showalter’s coaching staff from 2011-2018.
The Braves hired former Orioles outfielder John Shelby as a roving minor league outfield instructor in 2017, but Kirby is going to replace him.