Projecting Richie Martin's role on the 2021 Orioles; Rule 5 scenarios -

Rich Dubroff

Projecting Richie Martin’s role on the 2021 Orioles; Rule 5 scenarios

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Richie Martin seems to be a forgotten Oriole these days. Martin, who started 89 games at shortstop in 2019, missed the shortened 2020 season after breaking his right wrist during an intrasquad game in summer camp.

Martin, who was the first selection in the 2018 Rule 5 draft, struggled offensively in his rookie year, hitting .208 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 120 games.

With the acquisition of shortstop José Iglesias, Martin was probably going to spend spring training with the Orioles and then go to Triple-A for the first time to play shortstop every day.

When the Orioles regathered after 3 ½ months apart because of Covid-19, rosters were expanded to 30 players for the first two weeks of the season, and it became conceivable that Martin could have stayed with the Orioles.

He might have gotten more out of sporadic playing time in the majors than work at the alternate site in Bowie.

However, the wrist that he broke diving back into first base changed any plans the team had for him. Surgery was scheduled, and Martin’s season was over.

Martin’s loss turned out to be a large one for the Orioles because with Iglesias missing time because of injuries, he would have been a more capable fill-in than Andrew Velazquez and superior defensively to Pat Valaika.

The Orioles acquired Yolmer Sánchez, who won the Gold Glove at second base in 2019, on waivers from the Chicago White Sox on October 30th, and a double play combination of Iglesias and Sánchez could be formidable.

Between now and December 2nd, the Orioles must decide whether to offer contracts to three arbitration-eligible infielders — Sánchez, Valaika and Hanser Alberto.


They’ve also added Rylan Bannon, who plays second and third base, to the 40-man roster. Ramón Urias, who played well in the infield in the season’s last week, is also on the roster.

That leaves Martin’s status for 2021 in question. If Iglesias and Sánchez are on the club, can he play well enough at second to be kept on the team?

Should the Orioles send him to Triple-A to play shortstop every day in case they trade Iglesias in July?

Not only is Martin’s status in question, so is the makeup and schedule of the minor leagues, and trying to make any plans for him and other players who might not make the Opening Day roster is impossible.

Rule 5 thoughts: Martin was a rare Rule 5 pick that stayed with the club for the entire season.

The Orioles have made some good Rule 5 picks. Rightfielder Anthony Santander was a terrific choice, and utility infielder Ryan Flaherty and left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland were contributors. The Orioles have made at least one Rule 5 selection each year since 2006.

But, as executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias pointed out in his video conference call after the 40-man additions were made last Friday, it’s hard to keep Rule 5 players around.

“Other teams have to keep them on the major league roster all year and so it’s very possible that we may have players selected that we would hope would return to us,” Elias said.

“So, it’s a long process. We’ll see where it goes. It’s never easy, especially this year with so much uncertainty still surrounding the rules. We played with expanded rosters last year and a 60-game season, and nobody saw that coming. I highly doubt we’re going to have anything like that in 2021. I think it’s going to be, if not totally normal rules and schedule, very, very close to that, but there’s still a little added degree of uncertainty.”

In December 2019, the Orioles selected two pitchers in the Rule 5 draft, right-handers Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker. Both were returned to their teams, the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, on March 6, six days before spring training came to a halt.

Elias and everyone else in baseball had no idea that there would be expanded rosters when the game resumed, and it’s possible the Orioles would have kept Bailey or Rucker. Even with the bloated rosters, it would have been hard to keep both.

Bailey has been added to the 40-man roster of the Cincinnati Reds. Rucker could be selected again.

If a team wanted to take a shot on an Orioles prospect, right-hander Zach Pop, who came to the team in the Manny Machado deal, could be chosen. Pop had Tommy John surgery in May 2019, and a claiming team would have to deal with that risk.

If there’s a shorter season and/or an expanded roster in 2021, it makes it easier to keep a Rule 5 player, but we’re not likely to know the ins and outs of next season until months past the draft, which is scheduled for December 10th.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




    November 25, 2020 at 8:13 am

    If the O’s care about winning at all or even putting a decent team on the field , how could they not keep Valaika? He is better than Ruiz and better all around than Alberto (whose only skill is to hit singles off lefties).

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 25, 2020 at 8:26 am

      Vic, I like Valaika, but he doesn’t play much at third, and if they have Sanchez and Iglesias playing regularly, there’s not a lot of room. If they thought he could play third, I would think he could return.

      His best numbers offensively came when he played second base, and Sanchez could be a big upgrade defensively.

  2. boss61

    November 25, 2020 at 8:26 am

    You are right Rich. I forgot about Martin totally. Guilty as charged.

    I see his future more as a utility player than as a starter. Still I hope he gets a fresh evaluation.

  3. Tony Paparella

    November 25, 2020 at 10:04 am

    I am thinking Martin starts in the minors if a somewhat normal season comes about, and the reason is to see how the wrist injury has healed and to give him some reps he missed because of last year.If he progresses quickly he may get an early callup but a lot depends on Iglesias and Sanchez.Valaika is a fill in (though he showed some power at times) who may be better off on a team that can afford to carry him off the bench.Right now the Orioles still trying to see who can play where( from their top prospects), and the only way to do that is to give them a chance.Hard to keep everyone in the fold when you have so many different people to put to the test.Should be an exciting year.Anyway,happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Rich,and a happy and safe Thanksgiving to all the Oriole fans on this site.Tony

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 25, 2020 at 10:24 am

      Thank you, Tony.

  4. willmiranda

    November 25, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Especially to Rich, who keeps this all together and humming.
    And God bless you all with the gift of gratitude!

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 25, 2020 at 10:24 am

      Thank you, Will.

  5. NormOs

    November 25, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Guys, we have to remember that “Rule 5” and the “Waiver Wire” are our top Farm Teams but they are people that no one else wanted and that’s how you lose 223 games in two years. The O’s have already said, by way of Elias, that they are not interested in any of the TOP 50 FREE AGENTS. I guess that tells us fans where we stand. Re: “Don’t spend money and trust to luck.” I don’t think it works that way but I could be wrong.

    Everyone have a great Thanksgiving even though it will be “limited”.

    • Phil770

      November 25, 2020 at 1:36 pm

      Elias has all but said that the O’s will not be picking a Rule 5. Waiver wire would most likely be a pitcher or two, but mainly insurance if any of “the kids” gets hurt, especially early in the season. As for Free Agents, top 50 or otherwise – why would the O’s be interested? And even if the O’s would come, why would any of the “top fifty” come here? there is really only one position that they might be open to – 3B. Elias has already picked up 2B candidate. there are still 20+ 2Bs available, including Schoop and Villar. 3B choices not much better. Looks like O’s will give its own guys a chance first. To sign a FA at any other position (at any price) would yield “howls” from the faithful, and rightfully so.

    • CalsPals

      November 26, 2020 at 8:12 am

      Well he just about lied to everyone, his pickup made no sense, just what we needed, a 27 ur old OF/1st baseman who can’t hit, we already have CD…go O’s…

  6. Behemoth

    November 25, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Martin has to hit better than he did in 2019 to be an asset at the major league level. The scenario I imagine is that he works on it at AAA in 2021 and is ready to take over when Iglesias is dealt at the deadline. I’d rather not see him back in Baltimore until we can be more confident in his offense.

    As for the Rule 5, when Elias decided that they couldn’t carry a Rule 5 pitcher in a year where Asher Wojciechowski was their #3 starter, I can’t believe they’d try it in 2021. Adding a Rule 5 outfielder is silly with this roster, so the only place they’d consider it would be the infield (especially if they don’t want to pay Ruiz or Alberto). Kevin Smith of Toronto is a name some have talked about — he at least spent 2019 at AA with excellent SS/3B defense and some pop, but enough holes in his swing to keep his OBP below 300. If they see something fixable in him I could see a gamble there.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 25, 2020 at 3:30 pm

      Kevin Smith is a University of Maryland alum, but he strikes out a lot–151 times in 116 games in Double-A in 2019. If they acquire him, Behemoth told you first.

  7. Bancells Moustache

    November 25, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    Wait and see. If he ends up a contributor that’s a bonus, but that’s questionable. Still, let us not forget how awful Santander looked during his Rule 5 term with the big league team. He spent a few years on the farm and appears to have figured it out. I’ll give Richie the same courtesy.

  8. 33d St

    November 25, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    They need to permanently switch to the expanded roster. There is absolutely no interest

    • 33d St

      November 25, 2020 at 10:19 pm

      -ing managerial moves available with a 3 man bench, one of whom is a catcher. Let’s face it. The number of pictures needed to get through the game is never going to get lower. If anything it’s going to get even worse. Pretty soon everybody’s gonna be throwing six guys a game out there. What are we going to do have one guy on the bench? MLB needs at least 28 men on the roster to give the game some hope of variety. Otherwise we won’t even need managers anymore. Wecould just have pitching coaches to manage the gargantuan pitching staffs.

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