The A’s used the first day of the Major League Draft to select two college shortstops out of the Southeastern Conference.
The A’s took Richie Martin from the University of Florida with the 20th overall selection, then used their second-round pick on Mikey White from the University of Alabama. A’s director of scouting Eric Kubota said the picks reflected shortstops being a "strength of the draft" this year rather than an organizational focus on the position.
Kubota said on a conference call that Martin and White are "comparable in that they’re both high-performing shortstops from arguably the best collegiate league in the country … Richie is maybe a little more explosive, Mikey may have more of a power component to his game."
Martin, 20, listed at 6-foot and 185 pounds, has hit .292 with a .404 on-base percentage for Florida this season while leading the Gators in runs, walks and stolen bases. He helped lead Florida to the College World Series, where the Gators begin play on Saturday.
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Kubota said the A’s have followed Martin for "four or five years" going back to high-school showcases and called Martin an "outstanding athlete."
"He can really run, he can really throw, and we think his defensive ability has a chance to be special," Kubota said. "We think he’s got a chance to pretty much do everything at shortstop. We really like the energy and athleticism."
Martin said on a conference call that he spent a lot of time last summer working on his defense with his father and a few other infield coaches, concentrating on improving his footwork and making the routine play, and has seen that work pay off this season.
Offensively, Martin said he believes his strength is "getting on base and working counts," which fits in with the A’s philosophy. Martin said he knows "a little" about the A’s. "I’ve seen ‘Moneyball,’" he said, "so I know a little bit about Mr. (general manager Billy) Beane and how he runs things. I’m excited to get introduced to the program."
Martin, who hails from Brandon, Fla., has several interesting baseball connections in his life. His maternal grandfather played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues; Martin said he passed away before Martin had a chance to meet him. Martin also played on a traveling team run by former major leaguer Chet Lemon. Growing up, Martin said, he was a "huge Derek Jeter fan," and studied video of Jeter and how he played the game.
"We think he’s just a baseball rat," Kubota said. "We think he’s going to maximize the ability that he has. He’s a hard worker, a team leader. It’s just a very positive baseball makeup."
White, who played three seasons at Alabama, hit .339 this spring with four home runs and 35 RBIs in 60 games. He also walked 31 times and was hit by a pitch 13 times to compile an on-base percentage of .444. Kubota said the A’s feel White, like Martin, has the ability to remain at shortstop into the higher levels.
"We have a lot of guys who are very positive about his ability to stay there," Kubota said. "At the end of the day, you can never have too many good players. That stuff will all just shake itself out as time goes on."