In July, RtB introduced many of you to Gentry Fortuno, the Brewers’ 18th round pick in the 2015 draft. Fortuno dominated opponents during his high school career in Florida, and chose to forgo his collegiate commitment to UCF in order to sign with Milwaukee and begin his professional career in the rookie level Arizona League, which wrapped up play over the weekend.
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Despite falling to the third day of the draft, the 17 year old righty enjoyed a standout campaign in the short season AZL against hitters that were an average of nearly three years older. In 13 games (seven starts), Fortuno threw 33.1 innings and posted a sterling 1.89 ERA accompanied by a solid 3.64 FIP. Gentry doesn’t dominate hitters (14.5% K rate) with his “stuff,” featuring a sinking fastball that tops out at about 90 MPH, but he mixes four pitches with excellent control and walked just 3.1% of opposing hitters with a 1.14 WHIP. Fortuno gave up only one home run all season, inducing a well above average 60.2% ground ball rate and limiting batters just a 14.8% line drive rate.
I recently chatted with Gentry about his strong season, what’s he’s got planned for his time off, and what the Brewers have planned for him next.
Kyle Lesniewski: You had a terrific finish to the season in your last couple outings (7.0 IP, 0 ER). How does it feel to have completed your first pro season, and been so successful?
Gentry Fortuno: It’s hard to explain, I don’t really know how to describe it. It feels like any other season, my job is to pitch and I have high expectations for myself. I am happy with my stats from this year, but I wouldn’t say that I have any really amazing feelings.
KL: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
GF: My final ERA, for sure. At a certain point in the season I was really determined to get under a 2.00 ERA, and if I didn’t I wouldn’t have been satisfied with my final outcome for the season. I was really determined to not let anyone past first base, and I knew no one would score if I did that.
KL: What was the most important thing you learned this year, or your biggest improvement?
GF: My biggest improvement was definitely my work ethic. I’m a bigger guy, and I really worked hard at my conditioning and I think that it helped me a lot. I learned quickly that as long as you’re doing what you are supposed to and respecting those around you, it’ll really take you a long way.
KL: What was the biggest challenge that you faced this year?
GF: As far as in game, I try to take every appearance as get in, do your job, and get out. I don’t let things phase me out on the mound and just focus on pitching my game. On the whole, though, it was definitely and adjustment to get used to how much more throwing we do. I wasn’t used to throwing two bullpens a week, but the team had me on an innings limit to help ease me into things.
KL: So now that the season is finished, what’re you looking forward to doing with your time off?
GF: Well I’m heading home to Florida and I’m really excited to spend time with my family. I’m hoping to maybe go on a couple of trips, catch up with some of my high school buddies, and go out to eat. I’ll catch up on a little TV, like The Middle, Walking Dead, and Impractical Jokers are my favorites. I’m really looking forward to going fishing, I like going out on the ocean a lot better. I don’t have the patience for the fish in the lake near my house.
I have’t really spent any of my bonus yet, either, so I’m going to look at Volkswagens when I get home. I love those little cars for some reason, and that’ll be my first big purchase. I might get a tattoo, maybe.
KL: Well you are turning 18 this month, so is that part of the big plans?
GF: No big plans at all, just lay low and celebrate with my family and a few friends, ha.
KL: Do you plan on meeting up with any of your teammates this offseason?
GF: I’m going to try to, probably different places too. Maybe Mississippi, Georgia. Plan a weekend to go hunting or something.
KL: Did you catch any flack in the clubhouse for being one of the youngest guys on the team (only Gilbert Lara, born in October 1997, was younger)?
GF: At first, like the first couple weeks or so, I got ribbed pretty hard for being so young. But I felt like I belonged pretty quickly, and in our clubhouse if you can play and do your job then you will earn your teammates’ respect real quick.
KL: What’s next for you now, what are the Brewers’ plans?
GF: I report to instructional league on September 19th until October 16th. I’m not sure how many guys are going to be there total, but I know that like seven or eight guys from our team were selected. I’m looking forward to learning a lot and working hard during instructs, working out and getting a lot stronger and leaner. We’ll get to do a lot of video work and play games almost every day.
KL: How has it been implementing the mechanical adjustments that we discussed the last time we talked?
GF: It’s been pretty easy, actually. It took a little bit to get used to, but after awhile it wasn’t that hard of an adjustment at all. I can see the results working, too. I’ve really been keeping the ball down in my last four games and it has been very hard for hitters to get their bat around.
KL: What are your goals for this offseason to prepare for a strong campaign next year?
GF: One of my biggest goals is to eat healthier, I’m going to get after it hard and work to my body stronger. I want to work on the tightness on my curveball, and I’m going to learn a slider as well, so that’ll be five pitches in my repertoire. I just want to do as much as I can to get ready to report to Spring Training next season and show people what I can do.
KL: Congratulations Gentry on an impressive first professional season, good luck at instructs and I’ll plan on talking with you again this winter!
GF: Thank you Kyle!
Thanks to his standout performance this season, Gentry Fortuno has pitched himself from low-round draft pick to a viable prospect. MLB clubs can only bring in around 45 players for the instructional league, and an invitation is a strong indication of an organization’s willingness to invest extra time and resources into a a specific player’s development. Fortuno’s success and dedication to honing his craft at such a young age has started to catch the attention of the Brewers’ organization. Fans can keep a keen eye on his continued development through RtB‘s series as Gentry Fortuno works towards the ultimate goal of making the big leagues.
Introducing Brewers’ Draftee Gentry Fortuno