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Prospect Retro: David Ortiz

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David Ortiz when he was known as David Arias

Per reader requests, a prospect retro on Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

A lot of people don't realize this, but David Ortiz began his career in the Seattle Mariners system, signed as a free agent in 1992. He hit .246/.309/.299 as an 18-year-old in the Arizona Rookie League in 1994, hardly impressive performance. But he improved to .322/.409/.538 in the AZL at age 19, at which point he would have rated as a Grade C prospect, needing to show he could do something like that at higher levels and not as a league repeater. At the time, Ortiz was known as "David Arias."

Ortiz/Arias moved up to Class A Wisconsin in 1996, performing very well, hitting .322/.391/.511 with 18 homers, 52 walks, 108 strikeouts in 129 games, 485 at-bats. At age 20, this is very credible for a guy making his full-season debut. Baseball America was impressed enough to rate him as the Number Six prospect in the Midwest League. The Mariners, looking for veteran hitting help, traded him to the Twins for Dave Hollins in the off-season. I gave him a Grade B in my 1997 book, noting that the Twins got a good deal and that the Mariners would possibly regret trading Arias.

In the spring of `97, David started going by Ortiz rather than Arias. He rose rapidly through the Twins farm system that year, hitting .331/.390/.566 in 61 games for Class A Fort Myers, then .322/.376/.585 in 69 games for Double-A New Britain. He appeared in 15 games for the Twins late in the season, hitting .327. I gave him a Grade B+, rating him as the Number 49 prospect overall in baseball heading into '98.

Although his power was impressive, there were concerns about his defense, his weight, and rumors that his birthday was not as advertised. Ortiz spent most of '98 with the Twins, hitting .277/.371/.446. Then-Twins manager Tom Kelly rode Ortiz about his glovework and complained about his strikeouts. Some Twins fans felt that Ortiz was being treated unfairly, while others agreed with Kelly's critique.

Ortiz spent most of '99 exiled back to the minors, hitting .315/.415/.590 with 30 homers for Triple-A Salt Lake. He regained his job with the Twins in '00, playing well at times through 2002, but not really thriving until joining the Red Sox as a free agent in '03. He is now one of the most dangerous power hitters in baseball.

Comparable Players to David Ortiz, based on Sim Score and PECOTA, no active players listed.

Boog Powell
Jim Gentile
Fred McGriff
Willie Stargell
Kent Hrbek
Don Mincher
Willie Aikens
Mo Vaughn
Lee May
Glenn Davis

Questions for the House about Ortiz:

Will he age well? Look at the comparable players, all successful sluggers but some faded quickly

Is he thriving in Boston because he got away from Minnesota? Or is he thriving because of the lessons he learned in Minnesota?