Tigers Prospect Profile #41: Jose Ortega

Jose Ortega and his mid-90s fastball had excelled as he worked his way up the ladder, that is, up until 2011, when he struggled working out of the Toledo bullpen. Can he iron out his issues, and does he have a shot at the big league club this spring?

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

Ortega made his professional debut as an 18-year old in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2007. He pitched two seasons in the VSL, totaling a 2.25 ERA in 33 relief appearances. Across his 56 innings he allowed just 52 hits, walked 18 and struck out 38.

When the Tigers brought him stateside in 2009 they didn't waste any time pushing him, sending him to Oneonta when the short-season opened in June. He posted a 3.97 ERA in 25 outings, allowing 28 hits and 23 walks in 34 innings. He struck out nearly a batter per inning (32).

The 2010 season was when Ortega really took off. Starting the season in West Michigan he allowed a 4.56 ERA in 18 outings before a surprise promotion to High-A Lakeland. With the Flying Tigers he posted a miniscule 0.95 ERA with only 14 hits allowed in 19 innings while striking out twenty batters.

He was then promoted to Erie later that year and posted a 3.04 ERA across 15 games. He again yielded less than a hit per inning and struck out nearly a hit per inning.

At 22-years old the Tigers again promoted Ortega, sending him to Toledo to open the 2011 season. In 33 games for the Hens he logged 50 innings but was the most hittable of his career; giving up 61 hits and allowing 27 walks for a whopping 1.76 WHIP.

Scouting Report
Ortega offers a bit of a dichotomy for scouts. There is initial excitement upon seeing the radar gun light up with 94-95 mph velocity and the occasional 97 or 98 tossed in. That excitement often wavers as you watch him more and see the rest of the package.

Standing just 5-foot-11 Ortega lacks the prototypical height of a right-handed pitcher and that works against him on the mound. His fastball doesn't have much angle to the plate and doesn't change planes as it approaches the hitter. Despite his explosive velocity and some life his fastball is quite hittable. He works up in the zone consistently without the command to elevate with location.

In 2010 several scouts gave future above-average grades to Ortega's slider but those scores disappeared in 2011. He lacked depth on his slider last year and seemed tentative when throwing it. Without his slider at its best Ortega is left with two single-plane pitches that don't have the velocity separation to deceive hitters.

Orgeta's delivery is high effort and he struggles to repeat it despite solid athleticism. He gains some deception from his delivery but not enough to make up for his poor command and control.

Ortega is a fierce competitor on the mound and he will attack hitters. When he is throwing strikes he likes to work the inner half of the plate and isn't afraid of hitting batters.

Because his raw stuff doesn't miss tons of bats Ortega falls short of reaching a setup or closer ceiling. He could be a solid multi-inning power arm that bridges the gap between a poor start and the late inning relievers.
























Health Record
Ortega missed the very start of the 2011 season with some tightness in his right shoulder. There have long been concerns about his durability because of his slight frame and high effort delivery. All indications are he was fine later in the year but this bears watching in 2012.

The Future
Ortega is currently on the Tigers 40-man roster and he should enter big league spring training with an outside shot at earning a job in Detroit.

A more likely scenario has him returning to Triple-A Toledo for a second season. There he will be in a position to continue working to improve his command while also regaining the depth and bite on his slider.

With a successful start to the year, Ortega has a good chance to make his Major League debut in 2012.

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