By Contributing Writer: Chuck Boemmel Jr.
This past Monday MLB Pipeline released the Top 30 Prospect list for the Baltimore Orioles. This year’s list includes all the prospects familiar to Baltimore Orioless fans as well as a few new names. Among those new names are some who may have Orioles fans wondering who they are and today I would like to look at one of those players, Aberdeen Ironbirds (Class-A Short) shortstop, Irving Ortega.
Photo: Patrick Cavey
Ortega, 20, began the 2016 season with the Gulf Coast Orioles (Class-Rookie) where in 40 games he slashed .269/ .333/ .336 with 12 RBI and eight extra-base hits. He did make solid contact as evidenced by his .330 batting average on balls put in play but needs better plate discipline: Ortega struck out 25 times while walking just 11 times in 148 plate appearances.
It is defensively where Ortega shines. In 323.0 innings for the GCL Orioles he produced a fielding percentage of .976 with four errors and 17 double plays turned. Ortega is rated 55 for both his arm and fielding on the 20-80 scale.
Promoted to Aberdeen on August 4th, Ortega slashed .207/ .281/ .241 in just eight games for the Ironbirds. He continued to strike out more than he walked; six and three respectively. It appears as though the move to the New York-Penn League was a bit overwhelming for Ortega as, like his hitting, his fielding percentage dropped to .902 in 71.0 innings with five errors.
The Orioles signed the 17 year-old Ortega (he turns 21 on Oct. 30th) in early October 2014 out of the Dominican Republic. He began his professional career playing for the Dominican Summer League Orioles (Class-Rookie) in 2015. Ortega slashed .280/ .370/.380 in 54 games in the DSL while generating 19 RBI and 16 extra-base hits. His defense was raw; he produced a .952 fielding percentage with 13 errors in 448.2 innings. The organization promoted Ortega to the Gulf Coast League in August of 2015 where in only four games (eight at bats) he scored three runs and had one RBI. Despite having no batting average Ortega did produce a .385 OBP.
Not projected as a power hitter (career 2.07 ground out to fly out ratio), Ortega is seen as a shortstop whose offense will improve with age, growth and development. The Orioles are confident in the 6’2” 165 lb. shortstop’s ability to develop into a Major League player. I see him spending the 2017 season in Aberdeen where his development will be fun to watch. In his chat for Baseball America and the Orioles Top 10 Prospect List, Steve Melewski of MASN called Ortega “a young Dominican player to watch”. Orioles' fans would do well to keep this youngster on their radar.