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Jim Henneman: Richie Martin, Drew Jackson Intriguing Additions For Orioles

December 13, 2018
LAS VEGAS -- For the first time since infielder Ryan Flaherty came on the scene in 2012, the Orioles have a Rule 5 pick they should have no trouble living with for an entire season. In fact, they may have two.

During his briefing with the media Dec. 12, the day before the Rule 5 Draft, general manager Mike Elias said the Orioles would take at least one player in the draft, and possibly. 

"We'll have a [short] list and will use the [No. 1] pick," Elias said, "and if any of the others [on the list] are available we'll take one on the second round."

As it turned out, Elias doubled down to get a second pick and attacked the middle of the field in the process, adding depth to the most vulnerable part of the roster.

Richie Martin, who had been previously ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Oakland Athletics' No. 12 prospect, was taken with the first pick in the draft Dec. 13, and there is a distinct possibility he could be a legitimate candidate to be the Orioles' regular shortstop. 

And just in case that wasn't enough, Elias worked out a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, who drafted infielder Drew Jackson from the Los Angeles Dodgers and then dealt him to the Orioles in exchange for international bonus slot money.

While analyzing the Orioles' roster earlier in the week, Elias considered Jonathan Villar the club's starting shortstop. At the very least Villar, who came up through the minors as a shortstop but played mostly at second base after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last summer, is now the leading candidate. But it can be expected that Martin will force his way into the picture sooner rather than later -- with Jackson possibly protection at three positions in the middle of the field.

Jackson's primary position is shortstop, but he's also played second and has been used in center field on a limited basis the last two years. Interestingly, Martin and Jackson played in the Texas League last year.

Left unprotected by the A's despite a .300/.368/.439 slash line at Double-A Midland last year, Martin comes with a defense-first reputation, meaning he at least has the defensive skills to serve as a useful backup at a vital position in the middle of the infield. The 23-year-old Martin was the 20th player selected in the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Florida. 

Jackson, originally a fifth round pick by Seattle in the same 2015 draft as Martin, played collegiately at Stanford. He is 25 years old and had 22 of his career 106 stolen bases last year at Double-A Tulsa, for which he had a .251/.356/.447 slash line.

Martin didn't hit higher than .237 during any of his first three years, an uneven track record that probably influenced the A's to leave him unprotected. But Martin's offensive improvement last year indicates he could be a legitimate candidate at shortstop, the only position he has played on a consistent basis.

The advance scouting report on Martin is that he's a plus defender with good range, speed and a plus arm. His bat will dictate his role with the Orioles, but at the very least it would appear that Elias has filled the kind of role Flaherty parlayed into a six-year career in Baltimore.

Ever since the Orioles began their parade of Rule 5 picks, it's resulted in pitchers and hitters who were usually inexperienced and did little more than take up a roster space. Left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland and Flaherty were the only exceptions. This time around, Elias doubled up.

Martin and Jackson bring two assets the Orioles desperately need: defense and speed. It's far too early to jump to conclusions, but Elias' first two moves are intriguing to say the least.

Jim Henneman can be reached at 

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox