Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Luis Ortiz’s Overlooked 2021 Season

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 22: A detail of the 2021 MLB Grapefruit league logo during a spring training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles on March 22, 2021 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 22: A detail of the 2021 MLB Grapefruit league logo during a spring training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles on March 22, 2021 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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While Adrian Florencio took home Low-A Southeast Pitcher of the Year honors, Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Luis Ortiz was arguably the better pitcher of the two.

Last year, right-handed pitcher Adrian Florencio took home the pitcher of the year award for A-Ball. Playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates Low-A affiliates the Bradenton Marauders, Florencio was one of the best minor league pitchers. But was his teammate, right-hander Luis Ortiz, a better candidate for the award?

Now, this is no knock on Florencio, and he had a phenomenal season and led the league in ERA (min. 80 IP). But there are many areas where Ortiz edged out Florencio, potentially making him better than the Pitcher Of The Year winner.

Ortiz pitched 87.1 innings to a 3.09 ERA with an identical FIP and 1.26 WHIP. Ortiz struck out 30.1% of all batters faced while giving up a free pass to just 7.4% of the time. Not only did he get strikeouts and limit walks, but Ortiz surrendered five long balls. Suitable for a 0.52 HR/9 rate.

He also had an excellent batted ball profile. The right-hander induced ground balls 49.1% of the time while having a 25.7% fly ball rate. The only poor number he posted was a 25.2% line-drive rate. Even then, that isn’t a worryingly high rate either. Overall, Ortiz’s xFIP came out to 3.23.

So what did Ortiz do better than Florencio? For one, he got more strikeouts. Now it’s not that big of a difference as Florencio had a 29.8% strikeout rate compared to Ortiz’s 30.1% rate. The same is true about their walk rates. Ortiz barely edges out Florencio at 7.4% to 7.6%. Florencio was better at limiting home runs at a 0.47-per-9 rate, though Ortiz had the lower FIP.

Ortiz outdid Florencio in K/BB ratio, 4.04 to 3.90. xFIP also liked Ortiz better as Florencio had a 3.72 mark. The major positive that works in Ortiz’s favor are his batted ball rates, and Florencio had a ground ball rate of just 39.7% and a 34.5% fly ball rate. The areas that Florencio outdid Ortiz to a noticeable degree were in ERA (2.46), batting average against (.198 to .239), and WHIP (1.09).

But one thing that did play in Florencio’s favor that didn’t work in Ortiz’s favor was luck. Now neither was super lucky, or super unlucky, but take a look at each pitcher’s batting average on balls in play. Ortiz sat at .342 while Florencio sat at .280. Considering how good Ortiz was at keeping the ball on the ground and out of the air, at least compared to Florencio, it’s surprising that the ladder had the higher BAbip.

Either could have won pitcher of the year without any problems. Ortiz had the better strikeout and walk rate, FIP, xFIP, and better-batted ball profile. Florencio had a better ERA, WHIP, and average against. Luck played in Florencio’s favor more than it did in Ortiz’s.

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Florencio may have deserved the award, but that doesn’t mean that Ortiz didn’t deserve it either. Instead, I think it just goes to show how talented the Pirate Low-A pitching staff was that they had two of the most effective starting pitchers in the minors last year. Let’s not forget they pitched alongside Logan Hofmann, Jared Jones, Po-Yu Chen, Nick Garcia, Enmanuel Mejia, and Eddy Yean.

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