With Two Plus Pitches, What Else Does Luis Ortiz Really Need?

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

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David Hague: Best Pirates Photos From the 2022 Season

With Two Plus Pitches, What Else Does Luis Ortiz Really Need? – READING

 

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.

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ST1300b

Love this point of view Tim and my heart is still broken from not seeing Glasnow succeed in the black and gold – I was a huge fan! I hope I can connect with Luis as well because I mean who doesn’t love a Nolan Ryan type!
Hopefully the team shares this point of view and he gets the opportunity to show his ability.

joesolo6181

Let the man pitch. His stuff plays as is. He can always improve but the pirates will ruin him.

steve_zielinski

Does anyone know much about split-finger fastballs. I wonder why no Pirates pitchers use this pitch? It could stand for a change-up which so many Pirates pitcher s lack.

NMR

Probably not much more than you know already, but my understanding is that the pitch fell out of favor with American coaches due to fear of the stress the grip puts on a pitcher’s elbow. It’s also seen as a much more difficult pitch to develop, also on account of the grip. The thought being that only certain pitchers have the natural finger size and dexterity to grip and control the pitch.

Far more commonly used in Asian baseball circles, which makes you question how accurate the previous two assumptions are in reality.

steve_zielinski

I recall reading somewhere that split-finger fastballs because coaches and managers believe it damages the elbow.

I have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that ML players cannot develop pitches at will and have the pitches work as expected.

Perhaps the Gusti palm ball.

Y2JGQ2

I will tell you this. as a starting pitcher on an American Legion state final team in 1996 I decided to start throwing a split finger pitch in practice in the bullpen, and for the next week I was in the most pain in my life up to that point with a completely debilitating forearm strain. Wow, over 25 years later, 2 rotator cuff surgeries, a dislocated knee, a torn abdominal muscle later…..THAT is pain that i still remember.

Y2JGQ2

its the jamming of the ball between your fingers and throwing it that way which is a huge strain on the forearm and thus, the elbow.

steve_zielinski

You are too young to have seen Gusti. He got hitters out with that pitch. It just fell from the sky!

NMR

Love this, Tim.

The Glasnow comp seems apt in more ways than one. Re-reading your article from this past year, I couldn’t help but wonder why they were even bothering to have him repeatedly try to nail the inside corner against lefties when his fastball has so much natural tailing movement.

The club tried for years to get Glasnow to paint the corners to no avail, largely due to natural movement of his own. The Rays solved this by getting him comfortable targeting the middle of the plate, allowing the movement to run to the corners, and keeping hitters off balance by tunneling a breaking ball off the fastball. That seems like the path forward for Ortiz. Instead of trying to spot the fastball inside, let the slider bore in while the fastball tails away.

Also curious about why they didn’t have him throwing more changeups to begin with. Savant showed from the few he threw in the Bigs that the pitch has about 8mph of separation off the fastball and near-league average movement. That’ll do.

MD78

I am not sure what to make of his 2022 MLB stats….4.50 ERA nowhere captures what he did…..

In three starts and 15 innings he gives up 2 ER and 5 hits with 17Ks but a high walk rate….

Then he fails to get out of the 1st inning with 3 BB and 3 hits and winds up with a 4.50 ERA….

Only the ERA is near average….

If he dominates in 3/4 of his starts…he is not an average pitcher he is very good…..if he fails to get out of the 1st every 4th start he kills your bullpen…..

Did he benefit from no real book on him…then face a team that would not chase in start four or did he just have a bad night?

Usually 2 elite power pitches at least make a top shelf leverage reliever but IF he can’t get lefties out….the opponent will pinch hit and beat him…..

Lots to like…..the anti-Rich Hill…..young, raw, elite stuff right handed…..versus old, experienced lefty slop baller….

At least the opponents no longer have to face an endless array of tall projectable right handers throwing a two seamer and bouncing a slider….

mpg43952

As the sage of New Athens, Ohio, used to say, “Work fast, throw strikes, change speeds.” If he starts in Indy, he’ll have a good staff of starters to compete with.

richard.deal

Great article. I would have hoped that the front office would have removed all the dead wood and ideology that the old regime had. It would be interesting to talk to a couple of the minor league pitching coaches for Pittsburgh to see what they have told Ortiz. I think he has a higher ceiling that Oviedo, but it’s that darn consistency and sticking with what he’s good at that has probably. causes problems. And like someone else posted, his confidence wasn’t the best whenever he got someone on base. Hopefully he can turn it around before he ends up on another team, like Glasnow.

richard.deal

Thanks Tim!

GlypheNotes

I don’t pretend to have a scout’s eye, but the impression I got from his Pirates starts was how little I trusted his stuff pitching from the stretch. I guess it was locating the pitches, or maybe it was a little less confidence and aggressiveness.

In my memory — didn’t look up the stats — he was unhittable up until anyone reached first base. But baserunners are inevitable for a starter. If he can maintain control and velocity from the stretch; I have confidence in those two pitches being enough. And maybe a couple nice pickoff moves will put him in a better chance to be more “dangerous” and threatening to the offense when they’re trying to get him off his game.

Last edited 1 month ago by GlypheNotes
GlypheNotes

Maybe have him watch a bunch of Jon Lester tape. Forget the baserunner. Attack the batter.

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