GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Abimelec Ortiz had a monster season in 2023, winning High-A South Atlantic League MVP and Rangers Minor League Player of the Year honors. He batted .294/.371/.619 between two Class A stops, led the Minors in slugging and finished fourth in home runs (33) and OPS (.990).
It looked like it would be more of the same when the Rangers' No. 14 prospect came to the Arizona Fall League and launched a 444-foot homer in his second game with the Surprise Saguaros. But he went homerless in the next 31 days, stunning for someone with his massive left-handed power. He didn’t go deep in his first 12 games during the Minor League season, then never went more than eight games without a homer.
Ortiz ended his power drought Tuesday night, slamming a pair of home runs in an 8-5 victory over the Glendale Desert Dogs. He drilled a curveball from right-hander Josimar Cousin (White Sox) 402 feet at 102 mph in the third inning, then crushed a 93-mph fastball from left-hander Tyler Thomas (Mets) 431 feet at 106 mph in the eighth.
“Mentally, it was definitely challenging,” Ortiz said of his power outage via AFL translator Annalee Ramirez. “I experienced the frustration but then I kind of refocused and realized that I’m here because I can do the work and perform well. It was just a matter of refocusing and putting in the effort.”
Signed for $20,000 as a nondrafted free agent out of Florida SouthWestern JC in 2021, Ortiz struggled in his first full pro season before making a number of adjustments prior to his second. He trained with fellow Puerto Rican and former All-Star Carlos Delgado, shortened his left-handed swing and began wearing contact lenses during games.
Though he cut down his stroke, Ortiz still fanned 126 times in 109 games and posted a strikeout rate of 28 percent this summer. One of his primary goals when he came to the Fall League was to improve his swing decisions and plate discipline, and he has made encouraging progress.
Ortiz is hitting .344/.478/.656 with Surprise and his on-base percentage would rank fourth in the AFL if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. He has 11 walks and just seven strikeouts in 46 trips to the plate and appears to have regained his power stroke after missing last week with back spasms.
“I had to work on my approach and I’m still working on that,” Ortiz said. “I’m working on location within the zone, making sure that I’m finding that and that my approach is there. I’m making sure I can control what I can control.”
Besides working on his game in Arizona, Ortiz benefitted from a fortuitously timed day off for the Saguaros last week. He was able to attend Game 4 of the World Series and watched his Rangers slug three homers en route to an 11-7 victory over the D-backs. Texas won the first championship in franchise history the next day.
“That was really special,” Ortiz said. “I was sitting behind the dugout and they scored 10 runs in the first and second innings. It was so exciting.”
Ortiz soon will get a chance to play for a title of his own. Surprise has the best record in the Fall League at 18-10 and last week clinched a berth in Saturday’s championship game.
The Saguaros won their third straight and their 10th in their last 13 contests behind a five-homer attack. Besides Ortiz, the Royals' C.J. Alexander (454 feet, 108 mph), Rangers No. 13 prospect Cam Cauley (380 feet, 107 mph) and the Reds' Austin Callahan (345 feet, 99 mph) also went deep for Surprise. Red Sox second baseman Tyler McDonough (417 feet, 103 mph) homered for Glendale.