Rafael Ortega joined the Miami Marlins late last season for some time in the outfield.
I know this seems to be bad-timing for a Marlins 2018 season review piece, but I’ve been doing these for five months now. The series will shut down on Saturday. Ortega’s piece is the 280th of 286 being written this offseason.
Rafael Angel Ortega is a 5’11”, 160 lb. lefty-batting righty-throwing outfielder from El Tigre, Venezuela, population 203,403. Ortega is one-of-three major leaguers to originate in the city, along with RHP’s Jean Machi and Luis Aponte.
Ortega was born on May 15th, 1991, and signed his first professional deal with the Colorado Rockies in 2008. Over the next five seasons, he worked his way up through their system, culminating in his major league debut at the end of the 2012 campaign. Ortega went two-for-four from the plate, with a walk and an HBP for a .667 OBP in a very small sample size. It would be a long wait for him to get another look.
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After hitting .228 in 2013 for the Rockies double-A team, the Tulsa Drillers in the Texas League, Colorado waived Ortega. The St. Louis Cardinals then signed him to a minor league deal. After two minor league seasons, the Los Angeles Angels signed him through free agency.
In his season in the Angels organization, Ortega split his time between the Salt Lake Bees, in the triple-A Pacific Coast League and the Angels proper. In 66 contests with the parent club, he hit .232/.279/.292, with his only major league home run to date along with 16 RBI. He stole eight bases while getting caught three times. After refusing a minor league assignment following the season, he inked a deal with the San Diego Padres.
Ortega turned in a solid season for the Padres triple-A affiliate in 2017, hitting .317/.383/.468 in 121 games. For the El Paso Chihuahuas, collected six homers with 53 RBI while stealing 26 bases. On November 11th, he again elected free agency. The Miami Marlins signed him five weeks later.
Ortega was initially assigned to the triple-A New Orleans baby Cakes, in the Pacific Coast League. In 92 games just shy of the major-league level, he hit .275/.375/.404, with a pair of home runs, 28 RBI, and 12 stolen bases in 13 tries. On August 10th, he joined the Miami Marlins for the rest of the season.
One of his shining moments is captured here in a Marlins’ 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on 9/3/18.
Ortega hit safely in 18 of his first 22 Miami Marlins appearances, collecting multiple hits in eight of those games. During that time, he was 27-for-93, a .290 average. On August 14th, he led off and hit two singles and a double with an RBI and two runs scored in a 10-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
In 41 games in total for the Miami Marlins, Ortega hit .233/.287/.271, with five stolen bases in seven tries. He drew 10 walks and struck out 23 times in 143 plate appearances.