Number Five – RHP Luis Ortiz
Pre-season Ranking: Unranked
The halfway point belongs to Luis Ortiz. Ortiz has skyrocketed up prospect lists in the past season. FanGraphs ranked Ortiz as the Pirates’ 23rd best prospect but now ranks as their 50th best prospect in all of baseball. Ortiz made his major league debut just one season after he put together a phenomenal A-Ball campaign.
Ortiz’s minor league numbers in 2022 do not seem like the 50th-best prospect in baseball. In 124.1 innings, Ortiz put together a 4.54 ERA, 4.40 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP. He had a healthy 27.1% K-rate and 7.5% walk rate but allowed home runs at a 1.45-per-9 pace. Granted, there was some bad batted-ball luck for Ortiz. He had a strong 47.8% ground ball rate but a home run-to-flyball ratio of 17.4%, leading to a much better 3.75 xFIP.
A strong August led to the Pirates promoting Ortiz to the major leagues. He pitched 16 innings and allowed eight earned runs, but six came in his final outing of the 2022 season. He let up just one home run and struck out 17, but walked ten. The last start of his year really threw a wrench into his small sample size, but what was more important was what he displayed on the mound.
Ortiz was hitting 100 MPH regularly while throwing a slider with nearly 35 inches of vertical movement. His change-up was thrown just 14 times, but it served its purpose. A third pitch has always been a question mark for Ortiz, but his slider and fastball are elite, so even if his change-up tops out as an average or slightly below average third pitch, he should be able to get the job done, even as a starter.
Ortiz will be heading into his age-24 season in 2023. The Pittsburgh Pirates may start the flame throwing right-hander in the major leagues as part of their starting rotation. If he doesn’t, he’ll surely be the first to get called up if one of their starters struggles to start the year or gets injured. Rarely do you find a starting pitcher who can pump the kind of heat Ortiz does, and hopefully, the Pirates leave him in the rotation until he proves otherwise.