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Position Preview: Indy’s Rotation Could Showcase Farm System’s Top Arms

Mike Burrows, Luis Ortiz and Quinn Priester projected to highlight star-studded rotation
March 16, 2023

On March 31, the Indianapolis Indians will return to Victory Field to kick off a 2023 season projected to feature the Triple-A return of three top 10 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and electric arms promoted from Double-A.

On March 31, the Indianapolis Indians will return to Victory Field to kick off a 2023 season projected to feature the Triple-A return of three top 10 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and electric arms promoted from Double-A.

Luis Ortiz (PIT No. 4/MLB No. 74, Baseball America), Quinn Priester (PIT No. 5) and Mike Burrows (No. 9) headline the group.

Osvaldo Bido: In 2022, Bido was a mainstay in Indy’s rotation, ranking among International League leaders with 25 starts (T-4th) and 122 strikeouts (7th). The right-hander appeared in 32 total games, logging a 4.53 ERA (56er/111.1ip) to lead team qualifiers. His two breakout performances came in September, when he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Sept. 3 at Louisville and fanned a career-high tying 10 batters on Sept. 20 vs. St. Paul. He excelled following the All-Star break, compiling a 3.19 ERA (17er/48.0ip) in 12 appearances (nine starts) with 60 strikeouts. Bido’s 60 punchouts in the second half of the season were tied for the league lead with former Indians hurler Josh Lindblom. His strong finish to the campaign earned him Indy’s Most Improved Award. The 27-year-old has spent his entire career in the Pirates organization after being signed as a non-drafted free agent on March 14, 2017.

Mike Burrows: Burrows flourished in Double-A to start last season, earning himself a bid to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles alongside teammate Henry Davis. He went 4-2 in an Eastern League-leading 12 starts (T-1st) and also ranked among leaders with 69 strikeouts (7th) at the time of his promotion to Indy on June 16. In his 12 Triple-A appearances (10 starts), he went 1-4 with a 5.31 ERA (25er/42.1ip) and 42 strikeouts compared to only 12 walks. He showed glimpses of what’s to come in an excellent August, going 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA (4er/16.0ip) and 16 strikeouts in four games (three starts). The right-hander was selected by Pittsburgh in the 11th round (324th overall) of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Waterford (Conn.) High School.

Wei-Chieh Huang: Huang was selected by Pittsburgh in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 7, 2022 and is expected to be a regular in the Indians rotation. He spent the 2022 season in the Giants system with Triple-A Sacramento and went 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA (35er/71.2ip) and 89 strikeouts in 23 appearances (13 starts) The 29-year-old has pitched in 41 career Triple-A games, the most experience at the level by any pitcher in the Indians projected rotation. He was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by Arizona on July 18, 2014 and went on to make his major league debut with Texas on April 23, 2019 at Oakland.

Carmen Mlodzinksi: Mlodzinski is currently rated as the No. 22 prospect in the Pirates organization. The right-hander spent the entire 2022 campaign with Double-A Altoona, where he went 6-8 with a 4.78 ERA (56er/105.1ip) and 111 strikeouts in 27 games (22 starts). His best month of the season came in June when he posted a 2.61 ERA (6er/20.2ip), 23 strikeouts and .187 average against in five games (four starts). Mlodzinksi’s lone Triple-A appearance came at the end of the 2021 season when he was promoted from High-A Greensboro to Indianapolis. The 24-year-old was selected by Pittsburgh in the second round (31st overall) of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of South Carolina (Columbia).

Kyle Nicolas: The former Ball State (Muncie, Ind.) University starter will look to make his Triple-A debut with Indianapolis in 2023. Pittsburgh acquired Nicolas alongside right-hander Zach Thompson and outfielder Connor Scott from Miami in exchange for catcher Jacob Stallings on Nov. 29, 2021, and he has since made a splash in the organization. He is currently rated as Pittsburgh’s No. 14 prospect by Baseball America after going 2-4 with a 3.97 ERA (40er/90.2ip) and 101 strikeouts in 24 appearances (22 starts) with Double-A Altoona last year. He ranked among team leaders in games started (T-2nd), strikeouts (3rd) and innings pitched (3rd). The 24-year-old was originally selected by Miami in the third round (61st overall) of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft.

Luis Ortiz: The 24-year-old out of the Dominican Republic is one of Pittsburgh’s top-rated pitching prospects with a fastball that touches triple digits on the radar gun. The right-hander ascended from the organization’s No. 22 prospect last season to No. 4 after a stellar 2022 campaign. He spent the majority of the season with Double-A Altoona and ranked among Eastern League leaders with a 1.17 WHIP (2nd), .238 average against (3rd), 4.64 ERA (5th), 126 strikeouts (7th), 23 games started (8th) and 114.1 innings pitched (9th). On Sept. 1, Ortiz was promoted to Indianapolis and quickly earned the team’s first International Pitcher of the Week honor since Mitch Keller in 2019. In his second start with Indy on Sept. 8 at Omaha, he yielded a pair of unearned runs and three walks while striking out nine in 6.0 no-hit innings. Ortiz then had his contract selected by Pittsburgh on Sept. 13 and debuted with 5.2 scoreless frames at Cincinnati later that day. Ortiz was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, 2018.

Johan Oviedo: Pittsburgh acquired Oviedo along with infielder Malcom Nunez from St. Louis in exchange for LHP Jose Quintana and RHP Chris Stratton prior to the trade deadline on Aug. 2, 2022. Between Triple-A Memphis and Indianapolis last season, he went 4-2 with a 4.70 ERA (32er/61.1ip) and 64 strikeouts in 15 games (14 starts). He was named International League Pitcher of the Week (April 25-May 1) with Memphis after working 7.0 shutout innings on three hits with eight strikeouts on April 30 at Durham. He made five appearances (four starts) with Indy last season, surrendering only one run with 13 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. Oviedo has the most big-league experience of the group after registering a 3.21 ERA (20er/56.0ip) in 21 games (eight starts) between St. Louis (14 games/one start) and Pittsburgh (seven starts). The 25-year-old was originally signed by St. Louis as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2016.

Quinn Priester: The 22-year-old is coming off an excellent 2022 season in which he was honored as the Young Bucs Bob Friend Pitcher of the Year, given to the top-performing minor league pitcher in Pittsburgh’s organization. The right-hander spent most of last season in Double-A and went 4-4 with a 2.87 ERA (24er/75.1ip), 1.19 WHIP and 75 strikeouts. He was promoted to Indianapolis on Sept. 21 and tossed 5.0 shutout innings to earn the win vs. St. Paul in his Triple-A debut that night. In 19 starts between four minor league levels last season after returning from the injured list (oblique) on June 16, he compiled an organization-leading 3.29 ERA (33er/90.1ip), 89 strikeouts and .234 average against. Priester was selected by Pittsburgh 18th overall in the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Cary-Grove (Cary, Ill.) High School.