Joey Ortiz Hits His Way Into Orioles' Plans In Second Half
A breakout two years in the making finally came good this summer.
Shortstop Joey Ortiz, drafted in the fourth round in 2019, earned plaudits for his defense coming out of New Mexico State but faced questions about his bat.
The 24-year-old answered those questions emphatically in the second half.
A midseason adjustment at Double-A Bowie erased a frustrating first half, and Ortiz kept hitting after moving to Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 30.
From July 1 to the end of the season, Ortiz hit .352/.416/.610 at both levels and led the minor leagues with 101 hits, 68 runs and 175 total bases. His 1.026 OPS ranked seventh in that time.
Orioles player development staff hinted at his emergence during the pandemic, when Ortiz added 20 pounds of muscle and retooled his swing with a line-drive focus. But a shoulder injury limited him to 35 games in 2021.
Ortiz was back in time for Opening Day this year, but he hit too many ground balls to be productive in the first half. Orioles hitting coordinator Cody Asche and Bowie hitting coach Brandon Becker suggested he change his hand placement, which allowed him to cover more of the strike zone and be in position to drive the ball in the air more frequently.
That along with more focused swing decisions helped Ortiz take off. He now projects to contribute in Baltimore next season after hitting .284/.349/.477 with 19 home runs plus 35 doubles in 137 games.
He showed advanced bat-to-ball skills with 50 walks and 98 strikeouts as well as the versatility to handle any infield spot with a glove Norfolk manager Buck Britton called "elite."
"He had a really good year, so he’s another guy who’s now on the radar, big time, with a special glove," Britton said. "And you’re looking at a guy who maybe hits 15, 20 homers in the big leagues and he plays an elite shortstop, an elite second—wherever they put him.”
— Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in 2020, was seeing more at-bats in the Arizona Fall League after finally making his professional debut this summer. Kjerstad missed all of 2021 with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and had an .851 OPS in three months this year between Low-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen.
— Second baseman Connor Norby hit 21 home runs in the second half between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk to give him a system-high 29 home runs in his first full season. Drafted in the second round in 2021 out of East Carolina, Norby edged shortstop/third baseman Jordan Westburg, who hit 27 home runs, all in the high minors.