Name: Jose Ortiz
Acquired: 17th-round selection in 2012 amateur draft
Highest Level: Single-A Dayton Dragon
2014 Statistics: 3 HR, 14 RBI, .198 BA, .250 OBP, .336 SLG
Ortiz had a solid season at Rookie-League Billings in 2013, hitting .262 with eight home runs, and 32 RBI, but he opened 2014 in limbo, assigned to Reds extended Spring Training to help polish his skills. In late June, Cincinnati finally sent him to Dayton, but Ortiz never seemed to find his groove with the Dragons, as evidenced by his paltry .586 OPS. A big part of the issue for Ortiz last season was that manager Jose Nieves limited the youngster’s playing time, rarely giving him two starts in a row and giving him just 141 plate appearances over 39 games.
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Coming into last season, Ortiz was viewed by many as the Reds’ catcher of the future, so it was disappointing to see him stymied in the Spring and then mired in the low minors, but he is still very young and has plenty of time to get back on track to the Big Leagues.
Of course, the problem for Ortiz and every other Reds prospect that has designs on starting behind the plate on the Riverfront is that Devin Mesoraco went out last season and became a superstar. At 26, Mesoraco is signed through 2018 and will be the main pitch-caller for the Reds during that period unless he gets injured or falls off the plate, at the plate.
Everyone else will be scrambling for table scraps.
The good news is that Mesoraco typically leaves a LOT of meat on the playing-time bone, as his we-want-more 114 games in 2014 represented a career high. That total included only 104 starts, which left 58 for other. It seems likely that the Reds would rather fill in that playing time, at some point, with a youngster who might eventually become THE MAN than fill-ins like Brayan Pena.
For now, though, Mesoraco holds the keys to Cincy’s backstop rotation, and Ortiz has a lot of work to do, anyway. He will probably be back in Dayton this Spring, but if he can get the gears turning early, don’t be surprised to see him start climbing the ladder.
Riverfront ETA: 2018