Not much has gone right for the Brevard County Manatees to this point in 2016. Over the course of the season’s first two weeks, the club has a record of just three wins and twelve losses. Their .215 team batting average ranks only ahead of the Daytona Cubs and their OPS of .568 sits dead last among teams in the Florida State League.
One player who is not struggling however, is 22-year-old shortstop Angel Ortega, who, in his second stint in the FSL, is off to a fast start for the Manatees, hitting a team high .340 in 14 games, while leading the Sea Cows in hits, with 18.
A sixth-round pick of the Brewers in 2012 out of the International Baseball Academy in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Ortega has always been known as more of a glove-first shortstop, with hopes that his bat might eventually come around to give Milwaukee yet another talented prospect option up the middle.
Ortega has shown a knack for making the flashy plays throughout his minor league career, displaying plus range and a strong arm, leaving little doubt about his ability to one day handle defensive duties on the middle infield at the game’s highest level. In fact, some within the Brewers organization have rated his defense at shortstop in front of even that of top prospect Orlando Arcia and defensive wizard Yadiel Rivera.
The knock on Ortega throughout his first four minor league seasons however, has been his offensive game, as he carried an average in the low .200’s with an on base percentage not much higher into the 2016 campaign.
But the youngster is doing his part to change that this season, hitting safely in nine of the fourteen games he’s started, including seven multi-hit contests. In the Manatees recently completed series against the St. Lucie Mets, Ortega went 9-for-17 and also drew a pair of walks, giving him four already this season – another possible sign of progression for the youngster.
In over 1300 career minor league at-bats entering this year, Ortega had drawn a grand total of 58 bases on balls, never netting more than 15 free passes in a single season. But this year, Ortega is on pace to more than double that, which may indicate that his pitch selection is improving as well.
Granted, the sample size is small, but in a league notoriously tough on hitters, Ortega’s early season success at the plate bears monitoring. The shortstop position is already a strength throughout the Brewers system and a big offensive year from Ortega combined with his already impressive glove work, would go a long way towards putting his name back on the prospect map and strengthening the position even further for Milwaukee.