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Fantasy baseball waiver wire: What to know about Pirates flamethrower Luis Ortiz

The Pittsburgh righty, who will be reportedly called up to start on Tuesday, boasts a triple-digits fastball — along with plenty of question marks.

Luis Ortiz of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch to the New York Yankees in the second inning during a Grapefruit League Spring Training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 06, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

After consecutive disastrous sweeps at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ once-dream start is now at risk of collapsing entirely. So, with Vince Velasquez landing on the IL with elbow inflammation, the team is calling in some reinforcements — one very, very hard throwing reinforcement in particular:

Ortiz, the organization’s No. 8-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and a top-100 name according to some sources, will reportedly be getting the call from Triple-A to start against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night. It’ll be his first Major League appearance of the season and just the fifth of his young career, after a brief cameo in September of last year in which he posted a 4.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 innings — and blew some serious smoke:

Even in 2023, starters who can sit near 100 mph with their fastball don’t grow on trees. So just who is Ortiz, and why should baseball fans and fantasy managers care whether he gets the call?

Luis Ortiz fantasy impact

Not much was expected of Ortiz when he signed with Pittsburgh for just $25,000 back in 2018 at the age of 19 — much older than usual for an international prospect. But the righty emerged from the pandemic-induced hiatus in 2021 sporting some seriously improved velocity, and it wasn’t long before he started rocketing through the Pirates’ system. Ortiz went from Double-A all the way to the big leagues last year, powered by that big fastball and a razor-blade high-80s slider that missed bats nearly 50 percent of the time.

Ortiz didn’t look out of his depth in his first taste of the Majors, carrying a 1.17 ERA through his first three starts before a blow-up on the final day of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals. Still, for all that velocity, questions remain. He has a very slingy, three-quarters release that generates a ton of run and makes it hard for him to keep that powerful fastball in the strike zone, hurting his command. He ran a 14.5% walk rate at the MLB level last season, and that, combined with a lack of any real third offering to supplement the heater and slider, has left some scouts to wonder whether his ultimate calling is in the bullpen — there’s a reason Ortiz has had a hard time cracking many top-100 lists.

Still, guys like Spencer Strider have shown that you can make it work in the Majors with an arsenal like that, and while no one is comparing Ortiz to Strider, it’s not ridiculous to think that he could find success over four or five innings, maybe even as a bulk guy following an opener. (And that’s assuming the command doesn’t improved; for what it’s worth, Ortiz’s walk rate was down to 8.7% at Triple-A this year.) The Pirates are certainly committed to giving Ortiz every opportunity to prove himself, and his strikeout upside makes him worth an add in 12-team and deeper leagues — especially with a friendly first matchup on Tuesday.