Martin has a clear path to a roster spot with Alcides Escobar getting released Wednesday, Dan Connolly of The Athletic reports. Martin always had a chance as the top pick in the Rule 5 draft, but Escobar's release appears to confirm his spot. He's still battling fellow Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson for the starting shortstop job.
Martin went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk, two RBI, three runs and a stolen base in Wednesday's win over the Red Sox. Martin reached base in all three of his plate appearances Wednesday before giving way to Drew Jackson at shortstop. He walked and singled in his first two trips to the plate, coming around to score both times thanks to a pair of homers from Chance Sisco. Martin added his first extra-base hit of spring in his final at-bat, knocking a two-RBI double to put the Orioles ahead 6-4. He proceeded to steal third base and score for a third time as the Orioles went on to win 7-6.
Martin stated Saturday that part of his improvement last season was due to getting contacts to correct his poor eyesight, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reports. Martin's wRC+ for Double-A Midland jumped to 121 last season after sitting at 77 in 2017. It's often difficult to tell if such a dramatic improvement will be sustainable, but the contacts provide reason to believe that Martin was truly a different hitter at the plate. Of course, a jump in BABIP from .266 to .357 also tells part of the story, but the Orioles will be banking on the idea that the contacts were the primary factor after selecting the shortstop first overall in November's Rule 5 draft.
Martin, 23, is slashing .319/.390/.470 with eight stolen bases in 11 attempts across 187 plate appearances with Double-A Midland this season. The 2015 first-round pick was delayed to begin the current campaign while recovering from offseason surgery to repair a meniscus injury, but Martin hasn't shown any signs of poor health while repeating the Texas League. Though his power production remains unimpressive and dampens his outlook in dynasty formats, Martin has been an efficient base stealer and has shown improved patience at the plate, with his 9.3 percent walk rate representing his highest mark since short-season ball. He could earn a promotion to Triple-A Nashville at some point later this season.
Martin will not attend Athletics' spring training as he is recovering from right meniscus surgery, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. Martin underwent offseason knee surgery after appearing in 109 games between High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland last season. Though he won't be able to attend big-league spring training this year, he is expected to be back to full strength by mid-March and should be ready for the start of the regular season. The young shortstop will likely open the year in Double-A, where he slashed .224/.306/.315 in 2017.
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