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Pirates Prospects Daily: The Next Step In Luis Ortiz’s Development

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The major leagues have a way of exposing any weaknesses a player might have. A prospect may have flown through the minors hitting the fastball well, but struggled against breaking pitches. That might lead to good numbers in the minors, but there’s a good chance he won’t see many fastballs in the majors.

Starting pitchers with only two pitches can have success early on, but it will be hard to repeat that over a long period of time — especially trying to get the same hitters out multiple times in the same game.

There were few players to blow onto the scene the way that Luis Ortiz did this past season. His fastball, with the ability to hit triple-digits, helped lead the way to 17 strikeouts in his first 15.1 MLB innings pitched.

Things finally caught up with him, as he got chased out of his last start against the Cardinals before finishing the first inning.

Ortiz was always a fascinating prospect. He has the build of a starter, but his fastball/slider mix always looked like it pointed to a future in the bullpen. Even finishing out the season in the majors, no one threw more innings in the minors than Ortiz, so he can stand up to the workload.

Tim Williams broke down Ortiz’s troubles, especially against lefties, and while the splits in the minors weren’t wide, it started to show more in the majors. Ortiz walked more than he struck out against lefties (9.65 BB/9, 7.72 K/9), while putting up much more favorable numbers against righties. 

Another point he brought up was how his fastball wasn’t a true swing-and-miss pitch, in which Ortiz only generated a 16.7% whiff rate with it in the majors.

The Pirates have made some moves to sure up first base, but haven’t done anything when it comes to the pitching side of things. It’s still early in the offseason, but that would leave a door open for Ortiz to be in play for a rotation spot to open the season.

This would force Ortiz to potentially bypass the next step in his development, at least as a starter, and that would be the improvement of his changeup, something he used just 14 times among the 282 pitches he threw in the majors in 2022. 

Ortiz being able to throw that pitch, not only more but with effectiveness, will be a huge factor in whether or not he can remain a starter or not. There are certain things that require development at the major league level, working on a third pitch so that you can remain a starter isn’t one of them.

The rotation was one of the few bright spots down the stretch for the Pirates, and part of that was thanks to Ortiz. While it would be tempting to give him another go and put that last start behind them, more development time and patience seem like it could pay a bigger dividend down the road.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**The Pirates are interested in right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson, first reported by Rob Biertempfel and confirmed by multiple sources. Gibson will be in his age-35 season next year, and has been a workhorse starter for years. He’s coming off a season with an inflated ERA. Gibson seems like the next in line of the rental veteran starters the Pirates have added in recent years. They’ve had success with Tyler Anderson and Jose Quintana.

A key difference is that Gibson is coming off a 1.8 fWAR season. Quintana joined the Pirates after two replacement-level seasons where he pitched a combined 73 innings. Anderson had two years close to replacement level and durability concerns. Gibson isn’t coming off a bad season, and doesn’t have durability concerns. Thus, he might be more expensive than those $2-3 million reclamation guys, unless his age severely declines his value. Price shouldn’t be an issue, since the Pirates were just shy of $52 million in Ethan Hullihen’s latest payroll update. They have money to spend.

**Oneil Cruz isn’t wasting any time in winter ball. The Pirates’ shortstop homered in his second game in the Dominican. John Dreker has the latest Pirates winter ball updates.

**This week I put advertisements on the site. I went into universal detail on that change in First Pitch, which is my weekly recap of what is happening on the site, and what is coming up each week.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony broke down what’s next for the Pirates after the first base improvements.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

There’s a difference between my weekend writing and my weekly writing. The weekend writing deals with the concept of the Multiverse, time travel, supernatural beings, and other elements that I’m including in a novel series I’m writing.

This week, as I shifted into P2Weekly mode with First Pitch, I kept the weekend writing style. I hope you enjoy the update, even if it means dealing with ads. I’ll have an ad-free version after the new year.

First Pitch: Pirates Prospects and the Pittsburgh Pirates Universe

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Anthony Murphy
Anthony Murphy
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.

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