Luis Ortiz shows off nasty sinker in his Spring Training debut

Pittsburgh Pirates' hard throwing right-hander Luis Ortiz showed off a sinker with more velocity and break compared to 2023.
Sep 28, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Luis Ortiz (48)
Sep 28, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Luis Ortiz (48) / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In his 2024 Grapefruit League debut, Pirate right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz flashed a nasty sinker and looked like the pitcher people saw when he burst onto the scene in September 2022

Luis Ortiz was considered a top 100 prospect by many outlets heading into the 2023 season. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ right-hander had a quality 2022 minor league season and then was called up in September. He looked outstanding during a late-season call-up and was set to be a key member of the pitching staff in 2023. But he struggled to get strikeouts and prevent walks. When batters did make contact, they made loud contact as he had a 92.4 MPH exit velocity against him.

But Ortiz entered Spring Training this year with something to prove, and from the looks of it, the big right-hander has made a step forward with his stuff, especially his sinker. It is safe to say that Ortiz impressed in Pittsburgh's 13-4 victory on Tuesday afternoon.

Ortiz’s sinker averaged 95.8 MPH in 2023 but was sitting at 97 MPH in his Sprint debut. Not only did he gain some velocity, but also some spin, as his RPM went up by about 50 RPM. In terms of the now unfortunately named Bauer units, Ortiz went up slightly from 23.2 to 23.3.

But that added spin and velocity, which added some horizontal break to his sinker. He added about three inches of horizontal run, which puts it at 19 total inches. His sinker’s vertical break stayed about the same with 22 inches of break; however, this could make Ortiz’s sinker one of the best in baseball.

Last season, 284 pitchers threw 100+ sinkers. Only 24 averaged 97+ MPH. But here’s the more impressive part: no pitcher in the Statcast pitch movement tracking era has thrown a sinker that has averaged out at 20+ inches of horizontal break with that much velocity. The closest was Luis Perdomo in 2017, whose sinker had 21 inches of horizontal break and sat at 94 MPH, still three MPH shy of Ortiz’s sinker in his Spring Training debut.

Gaining some spin and velocity is one thing for Ortiz. However, gaining movement is another thing, especially as much as Ortiz added. If Ortiz can maintain that velo and break over longer outings, he might have one of the best sinkers in baseball. That much movement plus that much velocity will make it an extremely hard pitch to barrel up, let alone make contact with it in the first place.

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