Rum Bunter Staff Predictions For The 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates: Noah Wright
Rookie of the Year - Pitcher Luis Ortiz
Like with my breakout position player pick, everyone who can formulate an opinion will likely choose one player as their Pirates' Rookie Of The Year, that being Endy Rodriguez. I fully believe that, but I'm going to go with a slightly bolder prediction and say that Luis Ortiz will be among the Pirates' best (and potentially the best) rookie they have next year. He might be the Pirates' best rookie pitcher in their recent history.
Ortiz made his debut in September of last season. In 16 innings, Ortiz allowed eight earned runs but just a single home run and struck out 17 batters. The downside is he walked ten opponents. It was a small sample size, and although he gave up a decent amount of runs, there were a ton of positives to draw from the few outings he had at the tail-end of 2022.
The first was opponents managed just an 86.1 MPH exit velocity against him. Had Ortiz pitched enough to qualify, he would have ranked around the top 93rd percentile. Ortiz also gets a ton of swings and misses. The right-hander's whiff rate clocked in at 29.8%, which would have been right around the top 80th percentile. These two strengths are traits that dominant pitchers have.
Ortiz's minor league numbers from this past season don't do him enough justice. In 124.1 innings, Ortiz had a 4.56 ERA and 4.40 FIP but a strong 1.14 WHIP. Ortiz struck out 27.1% of batters faced with a walk rate coming in under 8% at 7.5%. Ortiz struggled with the long ball, in which he had a 1.45 HR/9 rate. But some of these home runs could be chalked up to bad luck. Ortiz's HR/FB ratio was 17.4%, despite having a ground ball rate of 47.8% and inducing soft contact. Ortiz had a similar ground ball rate in 2021 (49.1%) but allowed just 0.52 HR/9 because his HR/FB ratio was a much more stable 8.9%.
Ortiz is a flamethrower who regularly hit 100 MPH on the gun in his brief major league stint. He also throws a slider that sits with nearly 35 inches of vertical break. Many people sleep on his change-up, his third pitch. It's comparable to other change-ups like Rafael Montero and Corbin Burnes, both of which were comparable in terms of velocity and movement.
I've previously written that Ortiz could be an underrated Rookie Of The Year candidate, and I still stand by that. The kind of pitches his arsenal and profile can be compared to are some of the best in the league. Not to mention is ability to miss bats and avoid hard contact when they do hit the ball.