Scouting Rangers Prospect #45: Joseph Ortiz

Left-handed reliever Joseph Ortiz came out of nowhere last season, posting a 1.97 ERA in 32 innings with Single-A Clinton. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 18-year-old pitch with a feature article and an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Joseph Ortiz
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: August 13, 1990
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 175
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

While many of the Rangers' recent high-dollar Latin American signees have become top prospects, a handful of lesser-known players – such as catcher Leonel De Los Santos and left-hander Joseph Ortiz – have established themselves just as well.

Ortiz made his professional debut with the Dominican Summer League Rangers in 2007. Working as the team's primary closer, he posted a 2.70 ERA with seven saves in 18 appearances. Ortiz totaled 26.1 innings and surrendered 21 hits while walking eight and fanning 36.

Though the statistics were phenomenal, Ortiz didn't stand out to those who didn't see him for two reasons. For one, 5-foot-7 pitchers are often written off as non-prospects, regardless of their stuff. Secondly, the DSL is traditionally dominated by sketchy plate discipline and poor defense, so low earned run averages are the norm.

Those who haven't seen Ortiz first-hand would likely compare him to former Rangers prospect and fellow diminutive lefty reliever Danny Ray Herrera. But despite their size, the two pitchers aren't really at all similar. Ortiz would be best compared to former Rangers Rule 5 selection Fabio Castro. A 5-foot-7, 185-pound lefty, Castro works in the upper-80s, low-90s with two strong offspeed pitches. He appeared in four games for the Rangers in 2006 before being designated for assignment.

Coming into the 2008 campaign, Ortiz was not on anyone's radar. He was expected to make a state-side debut with the rookie-level AZL Rangers. And that's what happened -- for one game.

Ortiz actually participated in extended spring training at the club's minor league complex in Arizona, and he pitched a scoreless inning on June 22nd, opening day for the AZL Rangers.

Then came the shocking move – Ortiz was promoted to the full-season Single-A Clinton. The then-17 year old Ortiz went up against Midwest League hitters who were – on average – five years his elder.

On August 25, with Lone Star Dugout on hand, Ortiz made his full-season debut against the Beloit Snappers. In his first inning, the native of Venezuela proved to be unaffected by the older competition, as he got one broken bat flyout followed by two strikeouts with his good-looking slider.

Despite his struggles in the second inning of that appearance, Ortiz went on to repeat that first-inning dominance a number of times during the summer of 2008. In 32 innings, Ortiz put up a 1.97 ERA while allowing only 23 hits, walking 16, and striking out 25.

Also See: Clinton vs. Beloit Quotebook (June 25, 2008)

Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball: Two things onlookers instantly notice about Ortiz are his confidence and his surprisingly firm velocity. Although he came into full-season ball as a 17 year old, Ortiz didn't appear to be afraid. The lefty constantly attacked hitters with his 87-91 mph fastball. Like most young pitchers, Ortiz sometimes had difficulty commanding his heater, but that figures to improve over the next couple of seasons. Ortiz has already shown that he has the mindset and velocity to be an effective relief pitcher.

Other Pitches: Perhaps even more impressive than Ortiz's velocity is his well-developed offspeed pitches. Ortiz's primary offering is his hard, late-breaking slider, which he uses to get in on the hands of right-handed hitters. Though Ortiz is left-handed, righties batted just .200 against him in Clinton last summer. His slider could be the pitch that makes him more than just a situational lefty. He also has a promising, occasionally used changeup, which has the potential to become an average big league pitch over time.

Projection: Ortiz has a relatively low ceiling because of his 5-foot-7 body, but he can still be an important member of a big league pitching staff. Due to his frame, the hurler is unlikely to ever be given a shot as a starting pitcher, but he could move through the organization quickly as a reliever. He may be polished enough to reach the Majors by the time he's 20 years of age. Ortiz also has the stuff to be more than just a situational left-hander. Should he reach his ceiling, he could possibly work in the back end of a big league bullpen as a setup man. Ortiz turned 18 late in the 2008 season and he still has a lot of developing to do, both mentally and physically.

2009 Outlook: Ortiz could make a brief stop in Low-A Hickory to open the 2009 season, but it's just as likely that he'll begin the year in the High-A Bakersfield bullpen. The left-hander has already proven himself in the Low-A level, as evidenced by the .204 opponent batting average and 1.97 ERA in 32 innings with Clinton. Even if he's able to repeat those numbers in Bakersfield this season – which is unlikely – Ortiz's young age will probably keep him from progressing to Double-A Frisco in his first full season.

ETA: 2011.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2007 DSL Rangers (DSL) 1-2 26.2 21 8 38 2.70
2008 AZL Rangers (RK) 0-0 1.0 1 0 1 0.00
Clinton (A) 2-0 32.0 23 16 25 1.97

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