I’m going to ask a question that has been bouncing around in my head for months. I don’t have the answer to this question, but the question itself will inevitably get you to think about a specific player in a different way.
The question: Is Luis Ortiz the next Tyler Glasnow?
I don’t like using player comps. It becomes too easy for people to miss what is being compared, or to expand the comparison beyond the original intent. In all actuality, every player is uniquely themselves.
Tyler Glasnow and Luis Ortiz are two different pitchers in many ways. Where they are similar is that they both arrived in the majors with a plus fastball, a plus breaking ball, and the seeming need for better control and a third pitch in order to stick in the majors as a starter.
When the Pirates had Glasnow in their system, there was a big focus on what he didn’t have, and perhaps too little focus on what he did have.
In 2017, his first real shot at the majors, Glasnow threw four different pitches a total of 150 times or more, each. This included throwing more sinkers than curveballs, even though the curve was his best pitch and the sinker was new.
Glasnow eventually had success with the Rays, who simplified his approach to the four-seam fastball and curveball, with an occasional changeup. After two-plus seasons of the simplified approach, he started adding a slider into the mix, which has generated good results.
It’s a bit of a sticky situation to attribute Glasnow’s success to any one thing, but the reality is that he’s made 50 starts for the Rays, pitching 268.1 innings, with a 3.05 ERA, a 12.2 K/9, and a 2.8 BB/9. Those are outstanding numbers over parts of five seasons, and the biggest change he seemingly made was attacking with his best stuff, rather than trying to pre-counter a weakness.
Glasnow had a higher profile than Ortiz. Glasnow was one of the over-slot prep pitchers from the 2011 draft, and he quickly had success in the lower levels. You would have known about Glasnow reading any prospect site.
Ortiz, on the other hand, you wouldn’t have known prior to this year if you didn’t read Pirates Prospects or John Dreker’s reports. He’s been a great development story, filling out since his time in rookie ball, and adding two plus pitches.
I didn’t get a chance to see Ortiz pitch live this year, but in my time watching Altoona, I noticed that he was one of the leaders on the team. He was always one of the first out of the dugout congratulating his teammates after a big play, and he was always on the top step watching the action. To me, that attitude stands out just as much as having a plus pitch.
Ortiz finished his season in the majors, making four starts. He had a 4.50 ERA. He struck out over a batter an inning, struggled with control in a big way, and was overall just difficult to hit.
Earlier this year, I wrote about Ortiz while he was with Altoona. I was actually talking with Anthony Murphy about this article recently, saying that it’s my least favorite article that I’ve written this year. You could argue that I absolutely nailed the scouting report on a guy that very few were watching at the time, though it was the presentation that I didn’t like.
In that report, I focused a lot on Ortiz’s issue of pitching around left-handers, and his potential struggle against lefties. My approach with the article was to highlight an area where I see Ortiz being held back. In a way, it felt similar to the coverage of Glasnow, especially by the end of the year with Ortiz in the majors.
In his time in the majors, Ortiz showed promise with his stuff, but that stuff looked better than the numbers it produced. He did struggle against lefties, pitching around them with a .348 OBP against. He was unhittable against everyone. His four-seam fastball and slider produced promising results.
From here, you could write the same article I wrote in May, with a focus on what Ortiz might need to add in order to reach and secure that next level where he is for sure a Major League starter.
That falls into the same trap of Glasnow, because it ignores an important question: What could Luis Ortiz be without any changes?
We got a small sample glimpse of that this season. If you normalize his home run rate, then his 4.44 xFIP shows that his 4.50 ERA is an accurate representation of a below-average starter right now — working off two plus pitches with control issues.
If you consider that Ortiz is exceptionally difficult to make strong contact against, due to his two plus pitches, then his 5.9% HR/FB rate might not need to be normalized. If that’s the case, then his 3.67 FIP might point to an above-average starter — even with the control issues.
This is all based on sixteen innings in the majors and a seven month old scouting report.
Ortiz still comes with the unknown that every prospect has, and which only disappears with a larger sample of success in the majors.
We could talk about how he’s maybe not the best possible version of Luis Ortiz that he could be. However, this ignores that not many other pitchers wield two plus offerings like Ortiz. A lesser version of Ortiz still might be better than most prospects.
At a certain point with every prospect, we need to ask if they are enough, at their present development state, to make the majors.
Ortiz might be enough right now to be an MLB starter. There would be some debate over whether he’s above or below-average right now. He’s unlikely to start in the majors with the Pirates’ recent addition of Rich Hill. This will allow him to further work on improving his game, to be the best version of himself.
What I like is that Ortiz doesn’t need to change to react to better talent. He’s not getting hit hard, and his control issues aren’t overly alarming. His time in the majors this year might give him some added confidence to attack hitters with the stuff he has during the 2023 season.
If an additional pitch is really needed, it would only be known after seeing the results of Ortiz attacking with his current arsenal, rather than pitching around lefties.
After seeing what Tyler Glasnow did once he started relying solely on his two plus pitches — rather than detracting from them with lesser, possibly unnecessary options — I’d be really interested to see what Ortiz can accomplish with the same type of direct, aggressive approach.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.