Pitching is always a position an organization looks to supplement, and the Rangers certainly looked to it with their single first round draft pick this year. Luis Ortiz, a high school right-hander out of the Fresno, California area, was as high as 10th overall in some pre-draft rankings, but fell to the Rangers at the 30th slot, something the front-office team was more than willing to take advantage of.
Ortiz is a big-bodied pitcher, a solid 6-foot-3, 220 lbs even after losing a reported 30 pounds before the 2014 season, with a loose arm and mechanics developed from studying big-league pitchers, particularly Felix Hernandez. As an 18-year-old, Ortiz has three pitches that he can throw consistently, including his best pitch, a slider in the mid 80s. According to Ron Shah of Baseball Prospectus, who saw him pitch in California, Ortiz shows “some good pitching tools to go with his mid-90s fastball velocity,” which has been reported as high as 95 mph. His changeup is his weakest offering at this point, but with work could be an additional weapon. Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels was very complimentary about Ortiz’ pitches, saying the right-hander showed “big-league caliber stuff.” He did miss a start this season with forearm soreness, but this isn’t expected to be a future issue.
Ortiz is made only more interesting by his history. The righty has never worked with a specific pitching coach, developing himself through independent study of big league pitchers. He even cited practicing his motion in the mirror as a developmental tool. The fact that he’s been able to not only teach himself his current pitching technique, but succeed with it shows that he could move quickly with attention from the Rangers’ pitching coaches. Ortiz also has international experience under his belt, winning a gold medal with the 18-and-under USA Baseball national team in 2013. He recorded three saves and a win in five appearances, and was named World Cup MVP.
The Rangers’ second round pick falls right into the pipeline the organization has become known for, as they took shortstop Ti’quan Forbes from Columbia High School in Mississippi with the 59th overall pick Thursday night. Forbes was a two-way player in high school, playing both short and pitching, but the Columbia native projects highly as a position player. A right-handed bat, Forbes hasn’t shown much in the way of power, yet, but could grow into more production. Though he currently plays short, it’s likely that he quickly moves over to second, with a move to third imminent, and his arm should allow him to play at either position. “Ultimately [Forbes is] a right-hand bat who brings speed, athletic and hit tool to the table with defensive versatility,” assistant general manager A.J. Preller said in the post-draft conference.
Some compare Forbes to Hickory Crawdads infielder Travis Demeritte, and “fans are going to have to be patient with Forbes, as he's young for the draft class, but possesses enormous potential. He could be one of the true 5-tool talents when it is all said and done,” according to Shah. This level of talent didn’t escape the notice of the Rangers’ front office.
Both of these players will likely start their careers in Arizona, providing they sign. Ortiz is committed to Fresno State University, while Forbes has an offer from Ole Miss, but both players are probable to go ahead and start professional ball this season. “You set up your board and you have scenarios you really like,” Rangers director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg said. “This was one of our more popular ones. We’re very excited to get both of those players.”