ALTOONA, Pa. – When the Pirates pushed Luis Ortiz all the way from Single-A Bradenton in 2021 to Double-A Altoona this season, that spoke to how high they were on the righty. Ortiz was coming off a very successful season where he struck out 113 batters in 87.1 innings last year, and was rewarded with a promotion all the way up to pitch among some of the better pitching prospects in the system.
Now that he’s in Altoona, you can see why the Pirates were excited about him, and that it wasn’t just a case of a 22-year-old pitcher playing in Single-A.
“He’s been really fun to have around,” Altoona pitching coach Drew Benes told Pirates Prospects. “He’s been really fun to work with. He’s been really fun to watch compete. He’s learning and growing like crazy. He just keeps getting better. He has all the weapons he needs.”
Ortiz certainly has one of the most dangerous arsenals in the Eastern League, with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball that has hit triple digits before to go along with a slider and changeup. The setup has Ortiz among the league leaders in strikeouts, but it goes beyond just his work on the field.
“It’s learning how to control everything and learning how to think through the game in situations and how to pitch in those situations to set him up to have success,” Benes said. “That’s been a lot of what we’ve done this year, is consistency and control of his pitches, and talking through his starts. Watching video on his starts, talking through situations, pitch sequencing, how we’re attacking hitters, what makes sense in that situation.”
It’s not the throwing 100 mph that gets a player to the majors, even if it helps, it’s learning how effectively to place that pitch and how to set up the rest of his pitch off of the fastball. That’s where the minor league separates the players with the future at the major league level to those who will never see the show.
Ortiz has struggled against lefties this season, allowing an .796 OPS this season when facing them. Those kinds of struggles can ultimately limit his upside as a starter, but the way Benes sees what matters the most is Ortiz continuing to put himself in a position to succeed.
“We’ve talked through which pitches to use when, where they play best, but ultimately just filling up the zone, controlling the count,” He continued. “Hitters have to cheat to get to his fastball. They’re going to cheat to that, then they’re not going to be able to hit the other two.”
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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.