Ortiz turning heads with his bat

Despite not playing high school baseball until his senior season, first baseman Michael Ortiz has been a force in the AZL Rangers lineup since day one. Lone Star Dugout talks with the 28th round pick, who is currently hitting .300 with 25 runs batted in.

Arizona Rangers first baseman Michael Ortiz is one of the more intriguing players in the Rangers organization. Largely unknown by fans and experts alike entering this year's draft, Ortiz did not play varsity high school baseball until his senior year.

"[This year] was my first year ever playing high school baseball," said Ortiz. "I played as a freshman, but my sophomore and junior year, I gave it up for immature reasons. I started boxing. I came back the summer going into my senior year."

Playing at Palmetto Senior High School in Miami, Florida, Ortiz got off to a hot start in his first varsity season. He says the start turned the heads of a few scouts in the area.

"I came out strong at the beginning of the season," he said. "There was a lot of attention there. There was still a little bit of a buzz because nobody knew who I was. It was sort of like, ‘where did this kid come from?"

More than anything, Ortiz believes he matured mentally during his lone season.

"I felt strong and came into my senior season not-so strong," said the 18-year-old. "It took a big toll on my mind. I was still young in the head and I wasn't mature enough. I thought I was ready, but I messed myself up."

Ortiz, who signed a letter of intent with Miami-Dade Community College, was picked by the Rangers in the 28th round of the draft. However, the 18-year-old realizes draft positioning doesn't matter once the games begin.

"To me it's not really where you get picked; it's what you do when you get here," said Ortiz. "With some good work ethic and some good habits, you'll be alright."

Even though he had played just one season of high school baseball, Ortiz quickly established himself as a force in the AZL Rangers lineup with a hot start. The Miami native admits the quick start came as a bit of a surprise to him.

"To be honest with you, I didn't think I was going to come out that strong," replied Ortiz. "I've always been a hard worker and I just came out here trucking. I sort of evened out and had a few rough games, but I think now I'm starting up again. I'm starting to feel like the ball is a watermelon."

Because he has so little experience, there are still a few aspects of the game Ortiz is not yet comfortable with. One of them is hitting against left-handed pitching.

Ortiz, a southpaw himself, is hitting only .222 against lefties this year. Conversely, he has mashed right-handed pitchers to the tune of a .330 batting average. The problem is one Ortiz thinks will correct itself with more reps.

"I feel I just need to get more experience," said Ortiz on his problems against left-handed pitching. "With more at bats against them, I think I'll be able to adjust. It's kind of a new thing for me. I feel great, so I think it's just a matter of time before I start clicking with lefties."

Another chink in Ortiz's armor is his defense, as he has committed 12 errors in 38 games. Never able to play in the field while in high school, Ortiz feels he is developing with the glove every day.

"Since I've signed, I've progressed a whole lot," said Ortiz of his work defensively. "I came in less than a rookie. I was a DH all through high school, I never played first. But I've always adjusted well to any atmosphere I've been in. I have done my best and worked hard."

Nearly two full months into his first professional season, the 6-foot-2 Ortiz is hitting .300 with 25 runs batted in with the Rookie League AZL Rangers. He has seven doubles, two triples, and two home runs. Though he is pleased with his debut season, Ortiz continues to look for improvement in all aspects of the game.

"I want to improve my defensive skills a lot and to get better at the plate," replied Ortiz when asked if he had set any goals for the remainder of the season. "You can always get better."

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