The Orioles waited up until the final moments of the 4:00 PM EST trade deadline on July 31 to ship Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers for a trio of players, capping the Orioles 2018 midseason sell-off.
The return for Schoop included veteran infielder Jonathan Villar, along with a pair of minor leaguers: starting pitcher Luis Ortiz and shortstop Jean Carmona. This trade was one of the more surprising moves of the summer because Schoop had more than one year left on his contract and was having a down year at the time of the trade.
So the return is understandably going to be questioned under those circumstances, as to whether the Orioles got enough for a player that was the team MVP just one season ago, in 2017.
The Texas Rangers originally drafted right-hander Luis Ortiz in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, 30th overall, out of Sanger High School in Sanger, California.
He was traded to the Brewers two years later, on August 1, 2016, as part of a two-for-three swap. Milwaukee sent catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-handed pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers for center fielder Lewis Brinson, Ortiz and a player to be named later. The big right-hander spent two years in the Brewers system before the trade that brought him to the Orioles.
Ortiz can be an intimidating presence on the mound, standing 6 foot 3 and weighing 230 pounds. He is currently ranked as the Orioles’ 7th best prospect on MLB Pipeline, who describes his pitch repertoire as follows:
“His strong build allows him to maintain his 92-97 mph fastball deep into ballgames, and his late-breaking slider in the low 80s gives him a second plus second pitch. Ortiz threw his changeup sparingly as an amateur, but has developed it enough as a pro to where scouts view it as a potentially average pitch. He also mixes in a below-average curveball to give hitters a different look.”
Splitting the 2018 season in the minors between the Brewers and the Orioles, Ortiz managed a 3.70 ERA overall. He appeared in 16 games in the Southern League in Double-A with the Brewers, including 11 starts. He racked up 65 strikeouts and 18 walks in 68 innings pitched, along with a 3.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
Across five minor league seasons, Ortiz has averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings. His first half of the season in Double-A this year, that number was slightly higher at 8.6. But when he came over to the Orioles and pitched at the Triple-A level, his strikeouts per nine innings was only 6.0.
Ortiz made six starts total with the Norfolk Tides this year after coming over in the Schoop trade. He had 21 strikeouts and 8 walks in 31.2 innings with a 3.69 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, numbers that were very similar to his first half of the year.
The Orioles selected Ortiz’s contract on September 4, after rosters had expanded. But he has only appeared in two games, including one start. It has not gone well. At the moment, he has a 15.43 ERA.
His first major league appearance was out of the bullpen on September 7, when he surrendered three runs on three hits and two walks in 0.2 innings. His lone start came September 14 against the Chicago White Sox, when he allowed three runs (one earned), four hits and one walk in 1.2 innings while taking a loss.
The Orioles seem to believe Ortiz is at least close to sticking in the majors, or they wouldn’t have included him in their September call-ups. But despite getting a cup of coffee at the end of this dreadful season, he is probably ticketed to start next year at Triple-A Norfolk to get more innings under his belt.
But there is an outside chance he could challenge for a rotation spot next spring with a strong showing and break camp with the O’s. He has done a solid job in the upper levels of the minor leagues and at 22 years old, Ortiz will be in the bigs for good sooner rather than later.
Young shortstop Jean Carmona, who is only 18 years old, was signed by the Brewers out of the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2016. In two years in the minors, he has a .248/.328/.385 batting line overall. He is currently ranked as the Orioles 13th best prospect by MLB Pipeline, whose scouting report describes him as follows:
“Carmona is a switch-hitter who has shown a consistent approach and displayed power from both sides of the plate. Scouts like his strong athletic body and project him to fill out even more as he matures. What’s more, he’s viewed as an above-average runner and has the potential to be a basestealer with proper instruction.”
When the Orioles acquired Carmona, he was sent to short season Single-A Aberdeen, where he accumulated 93 at-bats. His triple slash line at the plate in that time was only .226/.280/.301 and he did not go deep once. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 25:6.
The young switch hitter fared slightly better in his first half of the season in the Brewers system. in 155 at-bats at the Rookie level with Milwaukee this year, Carmona hit .239/.298/.406 with four home runs and 24 RBI. He also had five steals in the first half of the season, but none with the Ironbirds.
Between Rookie level with the Brewers and short season Single-A with the O’s, Carmona hit .234/.292/.367. Obviously, these numbers are not where you’d like them to be, but Carmona is very young and raw and still has a lot of time to develop.
Having said that, he is not expected to arrive in Baltimore anytime soon. He has a lot more levels to climb in the minor leagues to prove himself. A conservative estimate would project Carmona for the majors in three to four years.