They knew it had to stop sometime. Tyler Bortnick was the Rays’ 16th round pick back in 2009 but never played like it. That same 2009 season at Short Season-A Hudson Valley, Bortnick posted a .300/.386/.470 line with 17 doubles, 4 triples, 4 homers, 26 RBI, 24 of 32 steals, and a 38-27 strikeout to walk ratio in 65 games. Then Bortnick kept it going in 2010, primarily at Low-A Bowling Green, posting a .295/.400/.445 line with 35 doubles, 9 homers (more homers than the Rays thought they’d ever see from Bortnick), 54 RBI, 41 of 55 steals, and a 77-68 strikeout to walk ratio in 125 games. Even in 2011 at High-A Charlotte, Bortnick continued to out-perform the player the Rays thought he was, posting a .306/.428/.424 line with 34 doubles, 7 triples, 4 homers, 70 RBI, 43 of 47 steals, and an incredible 67-79 strikeout to walk ratio in 132 games. Did the Rays undervalue Bortnick? Just how good was he?
In 2012 at Double-A Montgomery, Tyler Bortnick has finally fallen back to earth. He has posted a .260/.353/.399 line with 14 doubles, 6 triples, 4 homers, 41 RBI, 19 of 21 steals, and a 46-33 strikeout to walk ratio in 71 games. He’s been OK, but he appears to have finally reached a level where he is unable to thrive.
Tyler Bortnick is better than his draft slot. However, he’s not an elite prospect or close to it. Not every surprise success can be sustained. But the Rays aren’t delusional. They understand. But they’re happy for everything Bortnick does actually give them. Tyler Bortnick found the organization that appreciates his talents the most.
Tyler Bortnick understands what’s going on. He takes nothing for granted. Listen to this quote from Bortnick as he said to the Northern Ohio News-Herald.
”I kind of take it day by day. The Rays have one of the best minor-league systems in the major leagues. There is a lot of talent. It’s a business, and it’s difficult to get to the major leagues. The way I look at it, I play for all 30 teams in the league. You’re being watched every day. Maybe I’ll play for the Rays one day, maybe I won’t. I feel like I’ll get noticed by someone. The way you go about your business, people notice that. In the end, the ultimate goal is to play in the major leagues, whether it’s the team that drafted you or not.”
Have you ever heard a professional sports player say anything as honest as that? Bortnick understands that the only thing he can do is play hard and give his all every time he’s on the field. He scrutinizes his game constantly and does everything he can to improve it. He hustles and he can’t do anything to take a step back. He developed keen instincts in the field and on the basepaths because he didn’t have a choice.
Bortnick exemplifies the qualities on which the Rays have built their ballclub. He’s fast with excellent instincts on the bases. He has great plate discipline, and as an added bonus, limits the strikeouts. He plays second base and shortstop now, and he’ll be playing all over the field before long. And he hustles out every play and will do anything within his power to help the team win. Tyler Bortnick is no star. But he just gets it.