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

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

Our latest Article Drop will go live at noon on Tuesday.

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.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Sign this guy to an extension ASAP

How long did it take ATL to get a deal with Strider?


Yes it’s hard to envision Ortiz making the rotation out of spring training because of
1- development
2- service time; and
3 – Contreras, Keller, FA, Oviedo and Brubaker look like the 5 man favorites right now

In fact, I can see Priester or Burrows leapfroggin Ortiz at Super Two


Seems like a good candidate to be a 2+ inning reliever in the majors until he can establish more command and an average third pitch.


He needs to stay in AAA working out a different slider, or obtaining a consistent swing and miss change-up. I’d love to see him nailing it, and come up at the trade deadline. IF he does, the starters might be on to a great year

Scam likely

Try a slow curve if he can’t master the change up. A backdoor curve ball vs lefties could work.


The best two pitch SP of all-time, Nolan Ryan, has like 50 MLB records. Unfortunately one of them is for most walks. When Ryan had both his fastball and his curveball working, it was magical, as his roughly a season worth of complete game no-hitters, one-hitters, or two-hitters suggests. But when one of them wasn’t working, he was very beatable.

Not saying Luis Ortiz is the next Nolan Ryan, but I am saying if Ortiz wants to have a career as a SP in MLB, he needs to develop a 3rd offering.


Technically, he does throw two types of FB – a 4 Seam about 40% of the time and a Sinker that he threw about 18% of the time. But, he may be the only guy who throws both at the same average mph of 98+? That Velo works for a 4 Seamer, but Is that Sinker really a good pitch at 98+ mph? Could he drop some Velo on that Sinker by adjusting the grip and maintaining the arm speed? Could create a third look.

With He, Oviedo, Burrows, and Priester, things are looking good for the future of the Rotation. Hoping for Cody Bolton also.


Good point emjay.



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