One of the biggest risers in the system last season was right-handed pitcher, Luis Ortiz. After pitching in Single-A Bradenton back in 2021, he skipped High-A the following season, and eventually jumped all the way to the majors.
Armed with a fastball that can reach triple-digits, it’s his slider that his among the best pitches in the entire system for the Pirates.
With the fastball/slider combination, Ortiz had a solid floor as a high leverage relief pitcher, with the upside as a starter – especially if he was able to incorporate a third pitch more.
He’s worked on that in Triple-A, throwing the changeup in more and more situations, even stretches of success with it.
It’s still the slider that’s going to carry him at the major league level, and now seven starts into the Indianapolis season for Ortiz, we can see why.
|Called Strike + Whiff%||29.20%|
Almost 40% of the time that opponent’s swing at Ortiz’s slider, they miss it. The times they put it in play, they hit it into the dirt for a groundout. In the 35 at-bats this season that ended with a slider, Ortiz has allowed only three hits – just one being for extra-bases.
This is just a small clip of what Ortiz has been able to do with the pitch, coming from his abbreviated start on May 5.
The pitch can be flat out unhittable at times, and he can throw it against righties, and lefties, with success. There is still somewhat of a noticeable gap in success between the two, (although lefties are hitting just .237 against him this season) but that is where the changeup is coming in.
Fastball Having Success As Well
Although Ortiz is someone who can dial up the fastball to triple-digits on occasion, and is averaging 98.2 MPH right now, he doesn’t have the type of success you’d expect with that kind of velocity.
Despite the upper 90s velocity, Ortiz doesn’t get a lot of swing and miss with the pitch, something that we saw last year as well. In his four starts in the majors last year, the righty had a whiff rate of 16.4% with the fastball, which was towards the bottom half of the league.
It’s been a tad better in Triple-A this year, up to 22.92%, but nothing you’d really expect for as high as Ortiz can dial it up.
Due to the lack of swing and miss, he doesn’t strike out many hitters with it. In fact, he walks (13.4%) almost twice as many batters as he strikes out (7.6%) in plate appearances that end in a fastball.
Hitters still struggled to make contact, and when they do, it’s also on the ground. Opponents have just a .173 average against the fastball (8-for-46) and hit groundballs 36.5% of the time.
The emphasis on throwing the changeup more may help him get some more misses with the fastball, especially as he gets comfortable with it. He’s had a few games where he’s gotten several swings and misses with the off-speed, and has near 30% strikeout rate with it, but hitters have hit it well (5-for-16, .312). It’s still a work in progress, but he is throwing it at a near 20% clip overall (18.9%).
At the beginning of the season, it looked like the starting rotation depth was going to be one of the strengths in the system. With season ending injuries to two pitchers on the 40-man roster, that quickly thinned things out. Ortiz now finds himself in the majors, following an injury to Vince Velasquez.
The Pirates were able to create some success with their starters in the majors by focusing on a breaking-ball heavy approach on the mound, which would really favor Ortiz.
There seems a lot of ways his future could go, but outside of his comfort level with the changeup, there isn’t much else he can figure out at Triple-A. It’s about trying to find success now at the major league level. Or, at the very least, find out just how much of a contributor he can be at the highest stage.
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.
Slider use hasn’t been proven to cause more arm injuries…. But it hasn’t been disproven.
It’s kind of an impossible study to conduct because people are different. So when I see a young pitcher, NOT throwing many sliders, this could be the case.
Why is it that with pirate minor League pitchers there is always A negative to be addressed. Priester went from a potential number one starter to a five and now Ortiz is a good relief pitcher prospect with starter potential. Madness.