photo: Johan Oviedo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with a big right-handed pitcher who still has rough edges but remains a promising talent at 20 years of age.
|24||RHS||3 02 98||6-6||210||R||R||2016||IFA|
Link to Johan Oviedo’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2018 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 5.5, Risk: high (click here to review scales)
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (34): During the community vote, Johan Oviedo finished as the 34th highest rated player, much lower than the cumulative Cardinal Nation vote. Oviedo got a lot of support early in the vote from VegasJim at pick #20.
Dennis Johnson liked that Oviedo is a big, strong right-handed pitcher, definitely one to keep an eye on. Stlcard25 mentioned that Oviedo has been pitching at a higher velocity this year, which is promising given he is still just 20 years old. CariocaCardinal posted that Oviedo’s issue with allowing walks are beyond being just an issue. The issue is a showstopper. Vegasjim commented that Oviedo seemed to hit a nice groove for a large part of the second half, going 9-5 with a 3.10 ERA with 79 K’s in 81 innings pitched.
Last year, bccran was curious how the Cardinals would allow Oviedo to progress given all the high-upside pitching in front of him. Flash forward a year and many posters, like Grenadier1, see the donut hole in the system now and are looking forward to seeing Oviedo pitch in the High-A Florida State League and progress to Springfield by the end of the summer. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (24): Oviedo’s first year in full-season ball, at Low-A Peoria in 2018, proved to be a tale of two halves.
After posting a 5.82 ERA in a rough first half, Oviedo quickly settled down to become one of Peoria’s more durable starters down the stretch. He finished the season 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA over his last 13 starts.
The Cuban righty struck out 68 batters through 70 ⅔ innings in that span, holding opposing hitters to a .212 average.
“There was a really good amount of progress made by Johan as far as just overall maturity and being in his first full season,” Peoria manager Chris Swauger said. “It is always what you like to see – guys getting stronger as the season goes along.”
Like many 20-year-old pitchers, Oviedo is not all that consistent yet, but he did make steady improvement. He cut his ERA by nearly three runs from the first half to the second half while also improving his walk rate and holding hitters in check for the most part.
“He corrected some things,” Swauger said. “He moved a little bit better and worked on the delivery of his throws. He was throwing more consistent strikes. That was the biggest thing with him. He was able to fill up the strike zone and start controlling all four of his pitches.
“He has got premium stuff. Now that he has been able to control it a little bit more, the results clearly spoke for themselves. A lot of that is maturation and hard work in the right direction by Johan.”
From a scouting perspective, a late-season uptick in stuff was the silver-lining for Oviedo in an up-and-down first full season. His velocity has been all over the place in his pro career, being anywhere from 87 to 97 mph since he signed.
Early in 2018, Oviedo was at 90-94 with below-average secondary stuff. As the season went on, though, he touched 96 and flashed a plus changeup and curveball.
At a workhorse-like 6-foot-6, it seems reasonable to think Oviedo’s command will come later the more he grows into his body and is able to control his limbs.
He has the ceiling of a mid-rotation hurler if the quality of his stuff stays consistent and he refines his control. There is a range of potential outcomes for Oviedo from a possible starter to candidate to be released.
All in all, there is no denying the potential with Oviedo, who once was proclaimed as having frontline starter potential when he first signed with the organization two years ago.
Expect to see him start next year at High-A Palm Beach with an outside shot at Double-A Springfield.
Brian Walton (21): If this was a ranking of results in 2018, Oviedo would not be at no. 21 on my list. But these rankings are about potential and he has a lot of it. In my opinion, Oviedo has as much upside as any pitcher in the system who pitched at Springfield or below in 2018.
In his scouting grade, I had Oviedo pegged last year at “6 high,” which is an upper-to-mid rotation starter. This year, he is down a half-step to “5.5 high,” where “5” is a back-end guy. That is still pretty darned good, but the “high” indicates the rough edges that remain.
Let’s step back for a moment. Oviedo left Cuba in his teen years before his path brought him to sign with the Cardinals on July 2, 2016 for a $1.9 million bonus. I do not have details on what he was doing in his formative years, but he settled in Haiti, not exactly a baseball hotbed. Oviedo is likely less developed as a pitcher than the average 20-year old from the US who spent years on travel teams and in showcases.
Physically, Oviedo is the most impressive physical specimen of any pitcher in the system, in my opinion. He is tall and while large, is well-built. Could he do more in the weight room? Good question, but I do not know his level of commitment today. I can say that he was listed at 220 pounds when signed but now is 260, on a 6-foot-6 frame.
With fewer than 100 career innings as a professional, Oviedo was placed by the Cardinals into cold-weather Peoria to start the 2018 season in April. He was a year and a half younger than the average pitcher in the league and the second-youngest pitcher on the Chiefs (after no. 37-ranked Alvaro Seijas).
Results were not great to start, but as noted above, he showed enough to remain, going on to make a team-high 23 starts for the Chiefs.
Here is a summary of his first- and second-half splits.
|1H 2018||4 1/3||5.82||8.8||6.9||1.80||0.272|
|2H 2018||5 1/3+||3.06||8.7||5.1||1.38||0.212|
Oviedo pitched on the average more than an inning deeper into his second-half outings. He held his strikeout rate and lowered his walks considerably, which the latter still his primary problem. His batting average against dropped 60 points to a very strong .212. In doing so, he allowed almost one fewer baserunner on the paths every two innings. Given all that, basically cutting his ERA in half from the first half was a reasonable, deserved and strong result.
So, as the season progressed, Oviedo demonstrated considerable improvement. Isn’t that the idea? Challenge a young player and watch him work his way up to the level of his league, and beyond.
Still, I think Springfield would be too aggressive for Oviedo out of the gates in 2019. Perhaps he can hone his control and solidify his fastball velocity while initially working in the larger ballparks of the Florida State League and go from there.
Our 2019 top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles coming up next. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!
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