When we look at the 2023 Orioles infield, they return a top prospect talent in Gunnar Henderson, along with a Gold Glove winner in Ramón Urías and a Fielding Bible Award winner in Jorge Mateo.
Those three could man second, short and third. But where does that leave Jordan Westburg, who is not currently on the 40-man roster? Or Joey Ortiz, who is? Not to mention Connor Norby or Coby Mayo or, as we get further down the list, to Jackson Holliday and others. It’s crowded on the infield.
With his recent addition to the 40-man roster, Ortiz, 24, should get some big league time at some point during the 2023 season.
The word "elite" has been connected to Ortiz in that some insist he is an elite defender. In the second half of last year his bat showed elite production.
Ortiz was limited to 35 games in 2021 by a left labrum issue that required surgery and ended his season.
It seemed to take him a while to get fully healthy and past that in 2022, but he sure did.
Between 111 games at Bowie and 26 at Norfolk, Ortiz batted .284/.349/.477/.826 and played top-notch defense at shortstop. He produced 35 doubles, six triples, 19 homers and 85 RBIs while scoring 91 runs. In his Triple-A games only, he hit .346/.400/.567 with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs, 14 RBIs and nine walks.
Ortiz led O’s farmhands with 153 hits and ranked second to Westburg, who had 106, in RBIs. He ranked third on the farm in doubles and tied for third in home runs.
“The lead arm injury just took him a while to come back from that,” Orioles director of player development Matt Blood said recently as Ortiz ascended to the 40-man. “Then he made a couple of adjustments to his swing and worked really hard at that. And it just seemed to all start to click around the middle of the season. He took off, and just really happy for him that all the work he put in paid off. And that he is showing the world that he’s a really good baseball player.”
After July 1, Ortiz batted .352/.416/.610 and led the minor leagues in hits, with 101, and with 175 total bases. His 1.026 OPS ranked seventh.
“I think he’s been an underrated guy for most of his career," Blood said. "He’s just a really good player. A fantastic defender and baserunner, and he’s showing that he is also an offensive presence at the plate. It was really exciting for everyone to see him perform that way in Double-A, and when he got his chance in Triple-A did not go down. For the organization to have a player that like rise the way he did is of tremendous value and very exciting to us.”
If Ortiz, taken in round four of the 2019 draft, makes the majors, the Orioles will have sent four of their first five picks from the 2019 MLB Draft to the bigs.
We've been hearing for a while how strong Ortiz is with the glove. Is he the best defensive shortstop on the farm?
“It’d be hard to argue against that," Blood stated. "I’m sure there are some other shortstops that would like to make their case, but I would argue against that claim."
This was the year his bat got as many strong reviews as his glove. He was spraying extra-base hits all over the diamond.
“The key is hitting the ball hard in the air," explained Blood. "For him to do that, he’s worked on his swing and his strength, and then it’s swinging at the right pitches. If he swings at the right pitches, he has trained very hard to get the ball in the air on a line, and he’s really improved his strength and is going to be productive. For him, it starts with swinging at the right pitches, which produces the line drives.”