Sometimes when we get our first looks at a player there is so much hype surrounding them that the expectations are off the charts. One such player that I had the opportunity to see earlier this week was Phillies prospect Jhailyn Ortiz. Ortiz is a big bodied man-child listed on Milb.com at 6’3” 215 but he is much closer to Baseball America’s listing of 6’3” 250. Professional scouts grade his power at 70 on the 80-point scale and he has elicited comparisons to David Ortiz. He is ranked by Baseball America as the #7 prospect in the Phillies organization.
I witnessed his every at bat during Lakewood’s season opening series against Kannapolis and came away extremely disappointed. Ortiz went 0-14 during the four-game series with 6 strikeouts and no walks. On the field he was slow and plodding, and made an error by mishandling a slow ground ball and falling down while making the throw in.
At the plate, Ortiz hits from the right side, his feet start in a slightly open position and he strides and finishes in a slightly closed position. He sports a lot of pre-swing movement with a pronounced waggle (almost Gary Sheffieldesque) and a front foot toe tap. During this series, his swings were max effort and he often displayed significant head movement. He was getting consistently beaten on breaking balls from advanced collegiate pitchers throughout the series. The bat speed and power potential are evident but unfortunately, I caught him on a series in which he didn’t make much contact, let alone loud contact. His approach was extremely aggressive, swinging early in the count in most of his at bats. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch him in batting practice, I would love to see how well he squares it up when he can just step in and take hacks without worrying about outcomes.
As I said, I caught him during a bad series and I would like to get a few more looks before rushing to judgement. There is obviously a reason he is one of the Phillies top prospects, and he had a very nice season at Williamsport in 2017 (.302 AVG 8 HR .402 OBP in 159 AB). The Phillies signed him out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old for an estimated $4.2 million, at the time he was rated #6 on MLB.com’s International prospect rankings.
Since leaving Kannapolis he has heated up at the plate collecting three hits in nine at bats, while walking three times with two strikeouts. I am going to give him a mulligan for the Kannapolis series, but the weight he has gained since his signing and potential for his body to get out of control have me wondering about his conditioning and long term chances of being a corner outfielder. The Phillies like his makeup and I have read reports that he is one of those first on the field, last off of it types.
I see a lot of swing and miss in his game and I believe he is going to struggle against good breaking balls and pitchers that can keep the ball away from him. With his bat speed I think he is going to mash mistakes and fastballs that catch too much of the plate. I will be watching him closely and hoping that full season ball as a 19-year-old wasn’t too aggressive of an assignment. Based on his offensive potential and rating as a top organizational prospect I am going to track and follow him hoping he lives up to the hype and reaches the high ceiling many expert evaluators suggest he has.
Follow up: Ortiz struggled for much of the 2018 campaign, but that is to be expected for someone trying full season ball as a teenager. I’m willing to give him a mulligan for this past season and expect that he will improve mightily in 2019. I also hope he takes his conditioning seriously during the off season and shows up looking more chiseled and less bulky. I did get a second look at him later in the season and he looked significantly better than he showed during our first encounter. The video shows a bomb that he hit the second time Lakewood came to town.