What to Expect from Pirates Starting Pitcher Luis Ortiz

An injury to one of the Pirates’ starting pitchers has opened the door for Luis Ortiz to return to Pittsburgh. Ortiz rose up through the Minor League ranks quickly, and will look to build on the success that he had late last year for the Bucs. Here’s a closer look at Ortiz’s 2023 season in the Minors, and what he brings to the table.

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A Look at Ortiz

Pirates pitching prospect Luis Ortiz gained traction as a promising young arm in 2021, when he struck out 113 batters over 87.1 IP with Bradenton (A). One year later, a strong campaign across two levels pushed the 24-year-old into the Majors for the first time.

Ortiz made four starts for the Pirates in 2022, and he struck out 17 batters over 16 frames for Pittsburgh. While he did struggle with his command, the young righty flashed two above-average pitches in a hard high-90s fastball, to go along with an impressive slider. Ortiz used the two pitches a combined 94.9%. His changeup was used 5.1% of the time last season.

Scouting reports indicated that Ortiz’s change — a borderline average pitch that clocks in at about seven to eight MPH lower than his fastball — was behind his fastball and slider, and his usage of it backs that up. There have been examples — think Hunter Greene and Spencer Strider — of young hurlers that have come up in recent years and have had success with a heavy fastball/slider combo, but an effective third offering can make a big difference against hitters selling out on the fastball.

Ortiz started the 2023 campaign in Indianapolis and has pitched to the tune of a 2.23 ERA through his first seven starts (32.1 IP). However, that doesn’t tell the whole story of Ortiz’s season thus far. The 24-year-old’s BB/9 rate (3.1) is up from 2022, while his 8.1 K/9 is about two points lower than his MiLB total from last year. In his most recent, he did throw three scoreless innings for the Indians, and his fastball sat in the 95-97 MPH range per Statcast. The young Pirates prospect elicited a fair amount of whiffs with both the slider and heater, and mixed in a changeup in at times.

The call up of Ortiz will set the 24-year-old to start on May 9 against the Rockies. Ortiz will slot in for the injured Vince Velasquez.

A Look at the Pirates Rotation

The Pirates still own an impressive 20-15 record after 25 games, but the cracks are beginning to show. LHP Rich Hill has been a nice pickup thus far, but a tough performance this past weekend against a Blue Jays team with serious right-handed pop helped raise his ERA up 4.54. Meanwhile, youngsters Johan Oviedo and Roansy Contreras have scuffled recently, while Mitch Keller continues to hum along with 48 strikeouts over 40.2 IP.

Pittsburgh is starting to fall back to reality, and much of that has to do with the team’s rotation, Given the injury to Velasquez, now seems like a good time to see what Ortiz can do in his second run in the Majors. But, it will be interesting to see how well Ortiz’s command holds up and how effective he can be with his changeup.