MESA, Ariz. — The A’s like to experiment with their minor league infielders, shuffling them around to different positions to make them as versatile as possible.
As far as manager Bob Melvin is concerned, Richie Martin can grow some roots at shortstop. Oakland’s first-round draft pick in June, Martin is impressing with his smooth movements in the field and sound fundamentals. Melvin and infield coach Ron Washington have taken notice.
“Defensively, he’s way ahead in his mechanics, just his natural ability defensively,” Melvin said. “He’s a true shortstop. He’ll stay at the position. … He works really hard with Wash. Wash really likes his actions.”
Martin, who played at the University of Florida, is one of several high-profile prospects in camp that A’s officials are raving about. The 21-year-old won’t be arriving in the majors anytime soon — his professional career consists of just 51 games at short-season Single-A Vermont. But he doesn’t seem in awe of the established veterans he’s sharing the field with.
According to Martin, part of that comes from his experience after he signed his contract last summer, when he visited the Coliseum and took batting practice. He said he was shocked that the A’s veterans were friendly and down-to-earth enough to approach him to introduce themselves.
“I’m not treating it any different than I would a normal person, and hopefully they’ll treat me like I’m their teammate,” Martin said.
Baseball America’s scouting report on Martin includes the following: “He’s a pure athlete with tremendous range and agility at shortstop, and he plays the position with some flair as well.”
He hit just .237 with two homers and 16 RBI in his 51 games with Vermont, but he has speed and the A’s view him as a potential top-of-the-order hitter.
Martin is rated as Oakland’s No. 5 prospect by Baseball America, but he isn’t even their highest ranked shortstop. That honor goes to Franklin Barreto, their No. 1 overall prospect. Melvin said the 20-year-old Barreto will concentrate solely on shortstop while in major league camp, but Barreto — who should be ticketed for Double-A Midland this season — played some center field during winter ball in Venezuela this past offseason.
A’s general manager David Forst mentioned at the end of last season that Barreto will likely get a look at other positions throughout 2016.