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Oakland A's 2017 Community Prospect List #12: Richie Martin salvages lost year at last minute

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Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

With the Top 10 of our Community Prospect List decided, it’s time to move on to the Next 10. Leading off is Richie Martin, whose first full pro season looked like a complete disaster until the final month. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between their % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. Franklin Barreto, SS (+67%)
  2. Matt Chapman, 3B (+26%)
  3. A.J. Puk, LHP (+38%)
  4. Jharel Cotton, RHP (+60%)
  5. Frankie Montas, RHP (+12%)
  6. Grant Holmes, RHP (+27%)
  7. Matt Olson, 1B/OF (+10%)
  8. Bruce Maxwell, C (+9%)
  9. Daniel Gossett, RHP (+53%)
  10. Max Schrock, 2B (+9%)
  11. Richie Martin, SS (+34%)

Martin was the A’s top pick in the 2015 draft, No. 20 overall. However, his first full pro season saw multiple roadblocks. He began the year by missing nearly two months to a knee injury (meniscus), and when he got back on the field he didn’t hit at all — by the end of July, his wRC+ was 54 (in 259 PAs). It was looking like a lost season.

But then things began to look up toward the end. Martin began to break out of his slump — first a strong August, then a late promotion to Double-A Midland, and even a big performance in the Double-A playoffs. All told, his wRC+ over those final couple months was 139 (in 172 PAs).

The main explanation for his resurgence seems to be a reworked swing, which is a common reason for improvement in a young hitter as well as a cause to hope the uptick is legit rather than a fluke. Here’s a look at the difference, beginning with a swing from college (notice how his feet never leave the ground) (full video from YouTube):

Now, I’m absolutely not a scout, but even I can see a change in this next clip (from Double-A Midland). Check out the leg kick, and also the difference in where he keeps his hands (full video from YouTube):

We don’t get a good look at the rest of his stance from that angle, but even just the kick is a big development — and one that has helped many players in recent years, both within the A’s organization and elsewhere. Here are a couple more videos of Martin’s leg kick in Double-A: RBI single, and a home run in the championship series. Again, not a scout, but that new swing looks significantly better even to my layman’s eyes.

Of course, Martin’s carrying tool is his defense at shortstop, so perhaps I’m focusing on the wrong thing here. But if you’re already assuming the guy can make it with the glove, then his bat holds the answer to whether his future role is as a utilityman or as an everyday starter. After a 2016 campaign packed with confounding variables, we’ll get our next look at him this summer — probably in Double-A to start out, but it’s possible he’ll go back to High-A Stockton depending on the state of the increasing middle infield logjam.

Here is the process:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of "Vote: Player Name" for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official "Vote" comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec'ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec's earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, commenters will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be "Nomination: Player Name".
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec'ing that comment. The player with the most Rec's earns the nomination.
  • If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

* * *

The new nominee is Joey Wendle. He’s spent two years at Triple-A Nashville after being acquired for All-Star Brandon Moss, and if you ever want to try him out in the bigs then this is the time. He debuted last year and at least played good defense, and at age 27 and with extensive experience in the highest level of the minors there is really nothing left to wait for. And yet, Jed Lowrie is scheduled to be the A’s starter at 2B, despite being bad at both hitting and fielding and unreliable health-wise. Free Wendle for goodness sake.

XBH = Extra-Base Hits
Hitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

Joey Wendle, 2B

Expected level: MLB? | Age 27

2016 stats (AAA): 526 PAs, .279/.324/.452, 103 wRC+, 12 HR, 4.9% BB, 21.3% Ks
2016 stats (MLB): 104 PAs, .260/.298/.302, 66 wRC+, 1 HR, 5.8% BB, 15.4% Ks

From MLB Pipeline:

Wendle stands out most for his hitting ability. He has a good approach at the plate and uses the whole field to hit, squaring up balls with his compact swing. Wendle has more power than his size suggests and has proved capable of driving the ball over the fence everywhere he's gone.

Wendle is a steady defender at second base, capable of making all the necessary plays. He earns praise for his makeup and blue-collar mentality, traits that have helped him rise through the Minor Leagues.

* * *

Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Expected level: Rookie Ball? | Age 18

2016 stats: Nope

From John Sickels:

Cuban signed this past summer for $3,000,000; draws praise for power/speed potential but a wide range of opinion about how quickly this will manifest on the field; optimists project him as a 20/20 type with above-average outfield defense; skeptics say his swing needs a lot of work and he is quite raw with both bat and glove; optimists counter with his birthday; you can make a case for the Top Ten on tools and you can make a case for outside the Top 20 due to rawness and lack of data. We’ll compromise at 15. ETA 2021.

* * *

Renato Nunez, 3B

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 23

2016 stats (AAA): 550 PAs, 78 wRC+, 23 HR, 5.6% BB, 21.6% Ks
2016 stats (MLB): 2-for-15, 0 BB, 3 Ks
2016 stats (LVBP): 193 PAs, .304/.389/.542, 11 HR, 21 BB, 38 Ks

From John Sickels:

Like Olson his reputation has slipped; more raw power than Olson but a much more aggressive approach hampers Nunez’s OBP; defense remains mediocre and contact ability must improve if the bat is to carry him; to be honest, you can make a very good case to drop him into the C+ range but my instincts say to hold on one more year with Renato in this grade band despite no logic to back that up. ETA 2018.

* * *

Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Expected level: Single-A? | Age 21

2016 stats (RK): 5 games, 2.38 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 17 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR

From John Sickels:

Short leash due to injury-plagued college spring; fastball 90-95 with erratic breaking ball and change-up; can be overpowering at his best and usually throws strikes but stuff can sometimes back up; questions about durability main issue. ETA 2019.

* * *

Norge Ruiz, RHP

Expected level: Double-A? | Age 23

2016 stats: Nope

From John Sickels:

Cuban right-hander signed for $2,000,000 in December; scouting reports point to 90-94 MPH fastball with excellent change-up and above-average splitter and slider; mound presence also draws praise; command gets mixed reviews and it is unclear what role he will take, but general view is that he should be seen as similar to an advanced college arm who could be ready quickly; watch spring reports closely. ETA 2018.

* * *

Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec'ing his "Vote: (Player Name)" comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!