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Martin goes No. 1 in pitching-heavy Rule 5 Draft

Pitchers make up 11 of 14 selections in Major League phase
December 13, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- The Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft has a tendency to be pitching-heavy and the 2018 edition on Thursday was no different. Of the 14 players taken, 11 of them will try to land spots on big league pitching staffs next spring. But for the

LAS VEGAS -- The Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft has a tendency to be pitching-heavy and the 2018 edition on Thursday was no different. Of the 14 players taken, 11 of them will try to land spots on big league pitching staffs next spring. But for the second year in a row, the festivities kicked off with the selection of a position player in the top spot.
Richie Martin, who was No. 12 on the A's Top 30 prospects list prior to being taken, was selected No. 1 by the Orioles. Martin, the No. 20 overall pick in the 2015 Draft out of the University of Florida, has spent the bulk of his pro career playing shortstop, but also saw time at second in 2018. Knee injuries had slowed the infielder in his career, though after he came back from meniscus surgery in 2018, he turned in his best offensive season to date, hitting .300/.368/.439 with 25 steals in the Double-A Texas League.
:: 2018 Rule 5 Draft coverage ::
"Richie, we saw him as an above-average defender with plus range, with a plus arm at short, and someone who can also move over to play second base," Orioles director of baseball operations Tripp Norton said. "He had a resurgence offensively this year at Double-A. We view that as trending up.
"It wasn't a slam dunk. We spent a few days talking about it. But in the end, we kept coming back to Richie."
"Great for Richie," A's general manager David Forst. "It's a good opportunity, obviously with a club that needs players, so I'm sure he'll have every opportunity to stick. That's part of the decisions we have to make, but I wish him the best of luck."
Martin and the others taken in the Major League phase will head to big league camp in Spring Training and try to make a 25-man roster. Each selection cost $100,000 for teams, and if the player doesn't stick on the roster all year, he must be offered back to his original organization for $50,000.
A total of five players on their original organization's Top 30 list were taken. After Martin, right-hander Jordan Romano (Blue Jays' No. 28) was taken by the White Sox at No. 3, right-handed reliever Riley Ferrell (Astros' No. 17) was selected by the Marlins at No. 4, righty Elvis Luciano (Royals' No. 23) was taken by the Blue Jays ninth overall, and infielder Drew Jackson (Dodgers' No. 19) was taken by the Phillies at No. 11, and then sent to the Orioles as new general manager Mike Elias worked to add middle infield depth.
"Shortstops are a hole for us right now … acquiring Richie and Drew gives us options to look at in Spring Training in regards to our shortstop situation," Norton said. "These selections really strike what Mike has been talking about, increasing the overall value in the organization, getting better and getting more depth."
Post-draft trades are not uncommon, and Jackson wasn't the only selection on the move. Chris Ellis, who was taken seventh by the Rangers (from the Cardinals), was sent to the Royals. As a result, Kansas City ended up with a pair of right-handed pitchers after taking Sam McWilliams from the Rays with the second pick. The Royals had success in selecting pitching a year ago, with Brad Keller developing into one of their most dependable arms in 2018, and Burch Smith eating up 78 innings, mostly in relief.
"He's a big lanky right-hander who we think has a lot of upside," Royals vice president and assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said about McWilliams. "He's just starting to come into his own, not too dissimilar as was Keller last year. Different types of guys. We just think he's going to get better. He's got a big fastball, good slider. We see him as a starter down the road. We'll just let him compete and get him worked in.
"Ellis is physical with a heavy fastball, a plus fastball. We like his curveball and he has a durable frame."
Connor Joe, a corner infielder taken by the Reds from the Dodgers, and Drew Ferguson, an Astros outfielder nabbed by the Giants, were the two other position players taken in the Major League phase.
"He's going to come in with a chance to compete for a job in Spring Training," Reds general manager Nick Krall said about Joe, who had a breakout season (.299/.408/.527) and reached Triple-A in his first year with the Dodgers organization. "Our guys liked him. He made some improvements this year with his swing and approach. He had a really excellent year."
There were a total of 42 players taken in the Minor League phase. Outfielder Braxton Lee was the lone player on a team Top 30 list, having been ranked No. 29 on the Marlins' list. Infielder Riley Unroe was taken in this phase for the second year in a row. Last year, the Rays former second-round pick went from Tampa Bay's system to the Angels' system. This time around, he was taken by the Braves.
Complete results
Major League phase
Round 1
1. Orioles: SS Richie Martin (A's No. 12 prospect)
2. Royals: RHP Sam McWilliams (Rays)
3. White Sox: RHP Jordan Romano (Blue Jays' No. 28) -- traded to Rangers
4. Marlins: RHP Riley Ferrell (Astros' No. 17)
5. Tigers: RHP Reed Garrett (Rangers)
6. Reds:  1B/3B Connor Joe (Dodgers)
7. Rangers: RHP Chris Ellis (Cardinals) -- traded to Royals
8. Giants: LHP Travis Bergen (Blue Jays)
9. Blue Jays: RHP Elvis Luciano (Royals' No. 23)
10. Mets: RHP Kyle Dowdy (Indians)
11. Phillies: 2B/SS Drew Jackson (Dodgers' No. 19) -- traded to Orioles
12. D-backs: RHP Nick Green (Yankees)
13. Mariners: RHP Brandon Brennan (Rockies)
Round 2
14. Giants: OF Drew Ferguson (Astros)
Triple-A phase
Round 1
1. Orioles: RHP Taylor Grover (Reds)
2. Royals: C Chris Rabago (Yankees)
3. White Sox: 1B Jordan George (Pirates) 
4. Tigers: CF Tyler Hill (Red Sox)
5. Padres:  RHP Cristofer Melendez (White Sox) -- traded to Pirates
6. Rangers: RHP Jeffeson Medina (Orioles)
7. Giants: 3B Peter Maris (Rays)
8. Blue Jays: RHP David Garner (Cubs) 
9. Mets: LF Braxton Lee (Marlins' No. 29)
10. Twins:  RHP Dusten Knight (Giants) 
11. Phillies: RHP Gilmael Troya  (Yankees)
12. Angels: RHP Matt Esparza (Indians)
13. D-backs: OF Jeffrey Baez (Giants)
14. Nationals: CF Chuck Taylor (Mariners) 
15. Pirates: OF Randolph Gassaway (Orioles)
16. Cardinals:  RHP John Fasola (Rangers) 
17. Braves: RHP Jason Creasy (D-backs)
18. Rays: RHP Ryan Thompson (Astros)
19. Indians: LHP Yapson Gomez (Cubs)  
20. Cubs: LHP Luis Lugo (Royals)
21. Brewers: SS Julio Garcia (Angels) 
22. A's: 2B Corban Joseph (Orioles)
23. Yankees: RHP Adonis De La Cruz (Mariners) 
24. Astros: C Alejandro Flores (Nationals)
25. Red Sox: RHP Anyelo Gomez (Yankees)
Round 2
26. Giants: LHP Sam Moll (Blue Jays)
27. Mets: RHP Chris Mazza (Mariners)
28. Pirates: RHP Winston Nicacio (Cardinals) 
29. Cardinals: SS Alberto Triunfel (Angels)
30. Braves:  RHP Rafael De Paula (Reds) 
31. Rays: RHP Ian Gardeck (Giants)
32. Indians: 1B Wilson Garcia (Orioles)
33. Cubs: C Rafelin Lorenzo (Pirates) 
34. Brewers: C Alexander Alvarez (Rays)
35. A's: CF Mark Payton (Yankees) 
36. Red Sox: RHP Andrew Schwaab (Tigers)
Round 3
37. Mets: C Mitch Ghelfi (Angels)
38. Braves: SS Riley Unroe (Angels)
39. Rays: RHP Cristofer Ogando (D-backs) 
40. Cubs: RHP Alexander Vargas (Yankees)
41. A's:  RHP Anthony Miller (Indians)
Round 4
42. Rays: RHP Hector Figueroa (Indians) 

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.