Ortiz brings steady glove, offensive promise to Brewers

February 23rd, 2024

PHOENIX — already has a nickname, which seems to be de rigueur on Pat Murphy’s Brewers. Call him Tito, like the MMA fighter.

“I like it,” Ortiz said.

One of the principal pieces on the Brewers’ side of the Corbin Burnes trade with Baltimore on Feb. 1, Ortiz is expected to contend for playing time at third base and second.

He could also be seen as a potential long-term replacement for shortstop Willy Adames, who, barring a contract extension, will become a free agent when his $12.25 million contract expires after this season.

“When I think of the 2024 Brewers, I think of him,” Murphy said of Ortiz. “He’s just a nice piece.”

Ortiz, 25, has shown a blend of power and speed in a steady rise through the Baltimore organization after being the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in the 2019 Draft, and praise for his defense has been constant.

He did not commit an error in a micro-sample size of 14 games at three infield positions in a short stint with Baltimore in 2023, and his range factor at those spots in his four Minor League seasons compares very favorably with those of the top Major League infielders, especially among second basemen.

Brewers incumbent second baseman Brice Turang tied for the NL lead with the Cubs’ Nico Hoerner with 12 defensive runs saved among second basemen in 2023, according to FanGraphs. Ortiz’s Minor League range was rated similar to Turang’s.

“That bat can go into a slump sometimes, but the glove can always be there,” Ortiz said. “You have to take pride in it. You have to do your job the best you can.”

Third base may provide a more viable option for Ortiz in the immediate future, with Brian Anderson and Josh Donaldson having moved on. Among returnees for the Brewers, Andruw Monasterio played 56 games there last season and Owen Miller played 23.

“It’s great to have a guy with that type of defensive ability,” Murphy said. “You hear about him being such a gamer. You know what kind of talent Baltimore has on that side of the infield, in the infield, period, or on the team, period. To be able to extract one of their players like that is exciting.”

The trade with Baltimore that brought Ortiz, rotation candidate DL Hall and a 2024 Draft pick was a “shock,” Ortiz said, although the fact that the Brewers identified him as a potential building block was a positive.

“It makes me feel welcome and excited to be here,” he said. “You never know how anything is going to go down. This is a good opportunity. I’m excited to be here and do my best to help the team win.”

Ortiz, the Brewers' No. 5 prospect and No. 63 overall as ranked by MLB Pipeline, has shown power in both of his full Minor League seasons in 2022-23. Like many Minor Leaguers, he did not play during the 2020 Covid break.

Ortiz slashed .284/.349/.477 with 35 doubles, 19 homers and 85 RBIs at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in 2022. He followed that with a slash line of .321/.378/.507 with 30 doubles, nine homers and 58 RBIs at Norfolk last season.

“A lot of hard work, hitting the gym, getting my swing right,” Ortiz said of refining his approach. “As long as my swing is feeling good, the power should be there. Stay consistent there and go from there.”

He had double-digit stolen bases in all three of his seasons at New Mexico State -- he was in the front row when Murphy spoke to the Aggies’ team one season -- and had 11 in Norfolk a year ago.

“I want to be an all-around player, to be able to do everything and stay on the field,” Ortiz said.

As far as the completion, “I don’t think about it. I just try to come in and do my work every day and earn my spot,” he said.