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Pirates Prospect Watch: Is Optioning Luis Ortiz the Right Move?

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In another round of roster decisions, Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Luis Ortiz was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis following the Bucs’ 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.

Ortiz, who has seen his prospect status soar of late, made his major league debut with the Pirates last year. The right-hander opened some eyes with a fastball that touched triple digits and a slider capable of missing bats.

In four starts last season with Pittsburgh, Ortiz posted a 4.50 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 16.0 innings while limiting opponents to a .136 batting average and a .481 OPS against.

The high upside and meteoric rise through the Pirates’ prospects list resulted in some calling for Ortiz to be on the club’s Opening Day roster. While the Pirates’ decision to option Ortiz to Triple-A, it may be the right call.

For starters, Ortiz has been a fast riser through the Pirates’ minor league system. Ortiz spent all of 2021 with Single-A Bradenton. He then skipped High-A Greensboro and went straight to Double-A Altoona to begin last year. He made only two starts with Triple-A Indianapolis in 2022.

Additionally, the eight-best Pirates’ prospect has not had a very good spring training. In 6.0 innings across three starts, the 24-year-old has a 10.50 ERA. He’s surrendered 12 hits, has walked three and only struck out four.

The final and perhaps the most important part of the decision is that Ortiz needs to continue to develop a third pitch. Sure, the fastball is great and the slider will play, but a lot of guys in the big leagues are capable of throwing hard and feature sharp sliders.

To be a better starting pitcher, a third offering is important. While he has occasionally shown a good feel for his changeup, he will need to get more consistent with it and throw the pitch more.

In Other News…

In the win over the Phillies, Pirates’ prospect Travis Swaggerty drew a walk in his only plate appearance and extended his on-base streak to seven games in the process. Over that span, Swaggerty is hitting .500 (6 for 12) and has a .571 on-base percentage.

Fellow outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba also drew a walk in his lone plate appearance and carries a .464 on-base over his last 11 games. He scored the game-tying run in the ninth inning.

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