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Pirates All 40: Luis Ortiz Offers Intriguing Storyline for 2024

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Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Luis Ortiz delivers a pitch during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the New York Yankees in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.

Luis Ortiz is a perplexing pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sure, he has an upper 90s sinker and four-seamer, and he offers an above-average slider. On the other hand, Ortiz has yet to put things together, and batters feast on his arsenal regularly. 

Before we get into Ortiz’s details, let’s go back to his Pirates’ origin story. 

In Oct. 2018, the Pirates signed Ortiz to a $25,000 signing bonus out of the Dominican Republic. In 2019, the righty made his professional debut with the Bristol Pirates in rookie ball. 

Ortiz climbed the ranks rather quickly. From 2019 to 2022, Ortiz made it to Triple-A. As a side note, 2020 was the COVID season and there was no minor league baseball. With no minor league ball in 2020, it made Ortiz’s meteoric rise through the system all that more impressive. 

In 2022, Ortiz made his major league debut with the Pirates. On Sept. 13 of that season, Ortiz faced the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark. In 5.1 innings pitched, Ortiz allowed one hit, no runs, three walks, and struck out five. 

Fast forward to 2023, Ortiz found himself struggling in most of his starts. The Dominican native has always struggled with control, but over his 86.2 innings pitched in this past season, he walked 48 batters. Over a nine-inning pace, Ortiz was walking five batters on average. 

Looking at his arsenal, Ortiz used a slider (32.7%), sinker (28.3%), four-seam (24.8%), changeup (13.8%), and a cutter (0.3%). Every main pitch (four-seam, sinker, and slider) had exit velocities exceeding 90 mph. 

The worst pitch in terms of metrics was his four-seam, averaging 95.2 mph in average exit velocity. 

Coupled with poor metrics and poor command, Ortiz found himself in a pickle more often than not. Where Ortiz might find solace is his changeup, which was woefully underused at the major league level. 

In 202 occurrences at the major league level, Ortiz threw his changeup, and 33.7% of the time, hitters whiffed. When batters did make contact, it was weak (88.2 average exit velocity). 

In addition, only nine base hits occurred against the changeup, and none of them were extra base hits.  

Obviously, Ortiz shouldn’t make the changeup his primary pitch, but if he scraps his four-seam and sticks to the sinker, changeup, and slider, he may see better results. 

2024 is going to be a test for most Pirates’ players, but Ortiz may feel more pressure than most to perform above and beyond the expectations that fans have set for him.

The Pirates will need someone like Ortiz to step up in wake of a thin starting rotation.

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