Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Luis Ortiz Needs Moved To The Bullpen

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Pittsburgh Pirates’ hard-throwing pitching prospect Luis Ortiz has struggled, but could find a home as a relief pitcher in the bullpen.

One of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ hardest throwing pitching prospects is right-hander Luis Ortiz. Ortiz averages out in the mid-90s but can crank it up to 99 MPH. Ortiz jumped Greensboro and got directly thrown into the mix at Double-A Altoona. So far, his season could be better.

In 83 innings, Ortiz has a 4.77 ERA, 4.67 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP. Ortiz does have a solid 25.9% K-rate and 8.1% walk rate, but the righty has given up home runs at a 1.52-per-9 pace. Granted, there is some bad luck playing into Ortiz’s struggles. He has a 3.96 xFIP, which normalizes his HR/FB ratio. Currently, Ortiz’s 17.7% HR/FB rate is the seventeenth highest at the Double-A level. Last year, he had a much more reasonable 8.9% rate with A-Ball Bradenton. However, Ortiz should move to the bullpen.

Through the first two innings, Ortiz has a 2.43 ERA, 9.5 K/9 rate, and 2.4 BB/9 rate. Ortiz owns a 3.53 FIP in innings one and two. He’s allowed just four home runs, leading to an HR/9 of .97. Overall, Ortiz has some pretty good numbers when he only has to work the first two innings of a game, but after that, things go severely downhill.

After the second inning, Ortiz sees his ERA balloon to 7.30. Although the right-hander’s K/9 stays relatively constant at 9.3, his walks-per-9 jumps up by over one whole walk to 3.6. However, the biggest issue is that he serves up home runs like they’re going out of style. His HR/9 in the first two innings sits just below 1.0, but after the second inning, he gives up over two home runs every nine innings. To be exact, his HR/9 is 2.2 from the third inning onward.

The Pirates know that Ortiz lacks a third pitch. His mid-to-upper-90s fastball is among the best four-seamers in the Pirates’ system. His slider is a plus-plus mid-80s breaking ball. But his change-up? It’s currently at a 30-grade level with the projectability of a 40-grade pitch. Going into this year, anyone who evaluated Ortiz knew there is relief risk here.