Im­proved vi­sion boosts prospects of Rule 5 picks

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - ORI­OLES -

year, but I al­ways passed,” said Martin, 24. “It’s not re­ally in-depth test­ing. It’s just read off the chart. But I saw some­one in Mi­ami, had my vi­sion checked, and there was def­i­nitely room to up­grade and see bet­ter.”

He de­cided on con­tacts, which he needs dur­ing night games, dur­ing the 2017 off­sea­son. Com­bine that with a strict off­sea­son fit­ness pro­gram, some work with renowned hit­ting in­struc­tor Craig Wal­len­brock — whose work helped rein­vent Bos­ton Red Sox slug­ger J.D. Martinez — and Martin set ca­reer highs in ev­ery of­fen­sive cat­e­gory in 2018 for Dou­ble-A Mid­land, bat­ting .300 with 43 ex­tra-base hits.

He equated the dif­fer­ence to up­grad­ing from a high-def­i­ni­tion tele­vi­sion to 4K.

“One is ac­cept­able,” Martin said, “but it kind of im­proved a lot more.

“I would just say ev­ery­thing is a lot more clear. I don’t want to get into huge de­tails and say I can see the seams spin­ning, be­cause it’s not like that. But ev­ery­thing is just clearer, and I see the over­all pic­ture a lot more clearly and fo­cused.”

Jack­son, mean­while, would look at a high-def­i­ni­tion tele­vi­sion and won­der why the rest of the world didn’t look like that. After he wrapped his sopho­more sea­son at Stan­ford, when he hit .167 in 129 plate ap­pear­ances, he found out why. Then he and a buddy were driv­ing down the main cam­pus road in Palo Alto, Calif., and Jack­son asked what street they were pass­ing.

“He said, ‘Oh, you can’t read that? You should get your eyes checked,’ ” Jack­son said. “So I went in and sure enough, I didn’t have sharp vi­sion. I re­mem­ber get­ting con­tacts for the first time and look­ing at trees and be­ing able to see the leaves and think­ing, ‘Wow, this is go­ing to make base­ball a lot eas­ier.’ “

To that point, Jack­son re­ally only had his steady short­stop de­fense, speed and big arm for teams to dream on. With his sight im­proved, Jack­son had a break­out ju­nior sea­son in 2015, bat­ting .320 with a .784 OPS after miss­ing the start of the sea­son with a hand in­jury, and the Seat­tle Mariners made him their fifthround pick that June.

While he hasn’t had a per­for­mance like that since short-sea­son ball after he was drafted, Jack­son has de­vel­oped into a player who can pro­vide enough value at the plate to get his speed and de­fense to the ma­jors. Martin fits a sim­i­lar pro­file, and at the win­ter meet­ings in De­cem­ber, the Ori­oles nabbed them both in the span of an hour.

Martin was the first pick in the Rule 5 draft after the Ath­let­ics left him un­pro­tected off their 40-man ros­ter. Jack­son was se­lected by the Philadel­phia Phillies after the Los An­ge­les Dodgers didn’t pro­tect him, and the Ori­oles traded in­ter­na­tional bonus slots to ac­quire him shortly after the draft.

They rep­re­sent part of an over­hauled Ori­oles in­field this off­sea­son, with Tim Beck­ham not of­fered a 2019 con­tract and only Jonathan Vil­lar so­lid­i­fied as a starter up the mid­dle. Martin, Jack­son, Hanser Al­berto, Steve Wilk­er­son and newly-signed vet­eran Al­cides Es­co­bar will all vie to be part of the mid­dle­in­field mix, too.

As Martin and Jack­son be­gin to stake their claims to one of those spots, they’ll do so with a shared ex­pe­ri­ence they be­lieve opened their eyes to a whole new tal­ent level in them­selves. “I think it’s prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant tool, be­ing able to see, and how you can re­act to things,” Jack­son said. “Be­ing a hit­ter, if you can’t see the ball and you can’t re­act to how it’s go­ing, you’re not go­ing to be able to hit. I’d say it’s prob­a­bly the most pre­cious thing on our bod­ies.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.