Prospect Retro: Ramon Ortiz
Ramon Ortiz was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Angels in 1995, out of the Dominican Republic. He made his North American debut in '96, going 5-4, 2.12 in 68 innings in the Arizona Rookie League, with a 78/27 K/BB ratio. His numbers were excellent and his stuff was impressive. I didn't rate many short-season guys back then, but I would probably have given him something like a C+.
Moved up to full-season Cedar Rapids in '97, Ortiz went 11-10 with a 3.58 ERA in 27 starts, but with a spectacular 225/54 K/BB in 181 innings. He drew comparisons to Pedro Martinez, due to his short stature (listed at 6-0, 150 at the time), plus stuff, and good command. I gave him a Grade B+ in the '98 book, liking what he'd done but worrying about his health due to the large workload.
Indeed, health was an issue in '98, as Ortiz broke a bone in his elbow after just seven starts for Double-A Midland. The injury healed well and by instructional league he was throwing freely again, but it was worrisome enough that I reduced his grade to Grade C+ in the '99 book.
Ortiz overcame the elbow problem and had a fine season in '99, going 9-4, 2.82 in 15 starts for Double-A Erie, then 5-3, 4.05 in nine starts for Triple-A Edmonton. He posted a 6.52 ERA in nine starts for the Angels, struggling with his command, but his stuff was impressive and he was clearly one of the more exciting young pitchers around. I moved him back to Grade B+ in the '00 book, though noting that durability concerns were still present.
Ortiz was erratic for the Angels in 2000 but won 13 games for them in '01. His best season was 2002 when he went 15-9, 3.77 with a 162/68 K/BB in 217 innings. He's been mediocre since then, losing some of the zip on his stuff as he ages but lacking the command to compensate. Still, he'll give you 30 starts and will dominate a game occasionally
Ortiz hasn't lived up to the expectations he generated back in the Midwest League ten years ago.. In retrospect, he was never as good of a prospect as everyone thought: he was an Age-Gate guy, three years older than commonly known during his minor league career. He wasn't 21 in 1997; he was 24, and that makes a huge difference. He would never have rated higher than Grade B or B- had we known his true age.