The Twins announced that they have claimed right-hander Oliver Ortega off waivers from the Angels. Ortega had been designated for assignment last month. To create a spot for him on their roster, the Twins designated fellow righty Blayne Enlow for assignment.
Ortega, 26, will now join a new organization for the first time, having spent his entire professional career with the Angels thus far. He was selected to the club’s roster in September of 2021 and made eight appearances in his MLB debut that year, posting a 4.82 ERA.
In 2022, he spent the year oscillating between the majors and minors, throwing 34 innings in the bigs and 25 2/3 in Triple-A. That time in the majors came with solid strikeout and ground ball rates of 22.3% and 49.5%, respectively, but his 12.2% walk rate was on the high side. He managed to keep his ERA to a manageable 3.71 level, but a .297 batting average on balls in play might have helped. In the minors, his strikeout rate was an exact match for his MLB work, coming in at 22.3%. His 44.3% ground ball rate was a bit lower but still strong and his 6.6% walk rate was significantly better. However, a .392 BABIP helped push his Triple-A ERA to 5.96. Ortega still has a couple of option years, allowing him to serve as a versatile depth piece for the Twins. He’s averaged over 96 mph on his fastball in his major league action thus far and could be a useful contributor if he can lower that walk rate.
As for Enlow, who turns 24 in March, he was a highly-ranked prospect going into the 2017 draft but he went undrafted over the first two rounds due to a perceived strong commitment to Louisiana State University. The Twins grabbed him in the third round and were able to get him to sign by going well over slot, giving Enlow a $2MM bonus compared to a $755,400 slot value. The Twins were able to pull that off by signing their first overall pick, Royce Lewis, for about $1MM under his own slot value.
Enlow has been considered one of the better prospects in Minnesota’s system ever since, with Baseball America having him as high as #8 in 2019 and 2020. Unfortunately, the past few years have stalled his progress. The minor leagues were canceled entirely in 2020 and then Enlow required Tommy John surgery after just three starts in 2021. He missed the remainder of that year but was added to the club’s 40-man in November to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He returned to the mound in May of 2022 and was able to throw 57 1/3 Double-A innings last year. He posted a 4.40 ERA in that time with a 24.8% strikeout rate but an 11.6% walk rate.
The club will now have one week to trade Enlow or pass him through waivers. He’s had a rough few years but could still find interest from other clubs. He’s still young and has a couple of option years remaining. Baseball America notes that he can touch 97 mph with his fastball and has three secondary offerings. For a club looking for extra pitching depth, they may be attracted to Enlow’s arsenal and prospect pedigree.