Luis Ortiz worked the most innings of his minor league career last year for the Biloxi Shuckers. That’s the good news. The mixed news is that he only tossed 94.1 innings. Ortiz worked 2017 to a WHIP of 1.23; twelve home runs allowed in those 94.1; an ERA of 4.01, with an xFIP of 4.02. He walked 3.53 per 9 and logged 7.53 Ks/9 in 20 starts with 2 relief appearances, and even had a complete game - a seven inning affair on July 25th, with 4 hits, no walks, and 7 strikeouts. Then he was knocked out in 2⁄3 of and inning in his next start, on August 11th. He didn’t appear again until his two relief appearances on August 18th and 25th.
Luis had worked six shutout innings in his previous start (July 19th), allowing just one hit and no walks, with six strikeouts. Most of his starts before those two were in the four to five inning range.
Ortiz will be 23 next September. He has good ratings on his 20/80 scale: 60 fastball, 60 slider, 45/50 curveball, 50/55 change-up, and a future value rating of 55. Those numbers give us hope that Ortiz will still be a major league starting pitcher, but it would be encouraging to see a more consistently dominating performance from him in 2018. Reports have his fastball sitting in the 92-97 range, with arm-side movement. His 6’3” frame carries 230 lbs - though that may be on the conservative side. His conditioning has been called concerning in some reports.
His groundball rate last season sat at just 35.7%, and his minor league career rate is 40.4%. That would make Ortiz a flyball pitcher, and make him less attractive as a reliever. Further, his career strikeout rate of 7.21/9 doesn’t look like dominant reliever material. Many pitchers, however, work at a higher velocity when they go to the pen on a full-time basis, so the K-rate could improve.
Ortiz has famously worked out with then-Brewer Matt Garza, but even that has not moved Ortiz into the ready for prime time tier.
He has worked a total of about 250 innings over five minor league seasons. He has yet to top 100 innings in any one of them. He needs to start more games, pitch deeper into games, and have a better success rate to be considered for any rotation where he would get 30 plus starts. Right now, Ortiz feels farther away from the majors than several other pitchers. Brandon Woodruff has made the jump to the rotation, and would seem to have a pretty good shot at being in the four or five slot out of spring. Josh Hader has translated his stuff into a dominant bullpen position with the Crew. Brent Suter looks like a viable long man/spot starter. Luis is certainly young enough that he can grow into the rotation, but some more tangible progress would be nice.
Projections remain that Ortiz can be an above average major league starter. It would help if he could pitch enough innings in 2018 to get him on track to one day be the guy who can work 30+ starts and 150+ innings per season. If the Brewers thought he was near to being big-league ready, it might mitigate the need for more than one acquisition for the rotation going into 2018.
Where to start Luis Ortiz in the 2018 campaign could be one of the bigger developmental challenges facing the organization next season. Does Ortiz repeat AA Biloxi next year? Or do the Brewers move him up to AAA Colorado Springs and hope that the rarefied air at the elevation the Brewers’ highest minor league affiliate doesn’t slow his progress? Would it make more sense to move him up to the major league bullpen, or even audition him for a spot in the rotation? Stay tuned!
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com