Tigers Prospect Profile #14: Jose Ortega

Having remained relatively under the radar for his first couple of years stateside, Jose Ortega made his presence known in 2010, pitching well across three levels and flashing his mid-90s fastball.

Jose Ortega
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 5-11
Weight: 185
Born: 10/12/1988
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Ortega was signed as a 17-year old on July 3, 2006 out of Venezuela. He worked out at the Tigers facilities in Venezuela throughout the rest of that summer, before making his professional debut in 2007 in the Venezuelan Summer League.

Appearing in ten games as a reliever, Ortega allowed only nine hits and three walks in eleven innings, while striking out eleven. Control was more of a problem than his walk total indicates as he hit four batters and threw three wild pitches.

The Tigers returned Ortega to the VSL for another season in 2008 and he responded with a 2.20 ERA and five saves over 23 relief outings. In 45 innings, Ortega allowed 43 hits and 15 walks, though his strikeout rate dipped to 27 as he tried to harness his command at the expense of his raw velocity.

Brought stateside for the 2009 season, Ortega spent the entire year in the NYPL, finishing with a 3.97 ERA in 25 games. He was back to throwing hard and missing bats, though he often missed the plate as well. Ortega allowed just 28 hits in 34 innings, but he did walk 23 and fanned 32.

Ortega took off in 2010, seeing time at three levels, including 15 games at Double-A to end the summer. Starting at West Michigan, Ortega walked 17 hitters in 25 2/3 innings while yielding 28 hits. He did strike out 22, but that couldn't help his ERA from ballooning to 4.56.

Despite that performance, the Tigers pushed the 21-year old to High-A Lakeland where he sported a 0.95 ERA in ten outings. He dropped his hit rate significantly, allowing just 14 in 19 innings, and fanning 20. One final move was still in store as he headed up to Double-A to close the season. In 15 games – including one rare start – Ortega struck out 19 in 23 2/3 innings as he finished with a 1-0 record and a 3.04 ERA.

Scouting Report
In some respects, Ortega is a classic Tigers pitching prospect. He has an extremely quick arm that allows him to dial his fastball up to 94-95 almost all the time, while having shown velocity as high as 98 on occasion.

Though his velocity fits what has become the Tigers pitching profile, his size does not. Listed at a somewhat generous 5-foot-11, Ortega fails to get much angle on his fastball and he has a tendency to work up in the zone too much. These two traits make his explosive heater more prone to being squared up than it should be, and leave him falling a little short of the closer profile his velocity might suggest.

Command and control are a significant issue for Ortega, and they likely always will be. He borders on a max effort delivery and though he's a good athlete, he struggles to repeat his mechanics, causing him to miss the zone regularly. He will go in streaks where he finds the zone consistently and other streaks where he is incapable of throwing strikes.

Ortega's slider draws some mention as a potential plus pitch with good bite and depth. He has started to stay on top of it more frequently which has improved his consistency with the pitch.

Given his struggles with control and how hittable he can be at times, Ortega misses having the ceiling of a closer. He has the potential for two plus or better pitches, which gives him late game potential, and some scouts see him as a potential setup man.














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Health Record
Ortega has yet to sustain any significant injuries in his pro career. Though some scouts wonder how his smaller frame will hold up to his delivery, until he shows signs of breaking down there is little reason to have elevated concern about him. He has a strong, muscular frame with broad shoulders and he uses his legs and the middle of his body well.

The Future
Ortega was added to the 40-man roster in the off-season, and if nothing else that makes him a noteworthy prospect in the Tigers organization. Ortega and Brayan Villarreal are the first two Latin American signed since the Tigers shook up their international scouting department, to be added to the 40-man roster.

Likely headed for Double-A to start the 2011 season, Ortega could be just a quick call from Detroit if a need arises. It may take him a little time to settle into the big leagues given his struggles throwing strikes, but he could be a useful reliever on any team, and that could happen as soon as the second half of this season.

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