I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.
I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).
There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.
Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. Those write-ups are the shells for these posts. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each and I've done some MAJOR editing within each write-up, as well.
Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please tell me what you think!
RHP Johan Oviedo
Springfield and Palm Beach
International Signing, 2016
It was an excellent season for Oviedo, and the organization desperately needed that from him.
Oviedo started the season in Palm Beach, but it didn't take him long to earn his promotion to Springfield. There, it took the 21-year-old Cuban about nine starts to get his bearings about him.
Yes, that's a lot of starts.
Yes, the issue is his command.
We'll get there.
There might not be a prospect that's done more for his stock this spring training, either. The broadcast talks about him non-stop. The paper has been writing about him. He's looked good in limited innings (albeit with a little struggle in his first outing). He's earned all of the praise, too. He's an impressive specimen.
There is one thing about Oviedo that needs clarification, however. There's been a lot of talk about how Oviedo has "filled out" this offseason. That isn't exactly accurate. Oviedo is 6'6", but he's always been a big boy. As a matter of fact, one of the issues in the past is that he was too big of a boy, and that he didn't take care of his body the way that he needed to. It's not that he's "filled-out," it's that he has actually leaned-down and converted some of that baby fat into toned-muscle. This is especially true of his upper-half, specifically his shoulders.
This has allowed Oviedo to tap into some of his natural athleticism that his body had hid for a couple of years entering 2019. If you haven't been following along at home, then you probably don't know that Oviedo has struggled to maintain his fastball velocity in the past. He started to show signs of busting out of that in 2018, and those concerns were all but gone in 2019. It isn't a coincidence that the velocity concerns went away with the pudgy body. I also believe that this has allowed Oviedo to do a better job of repeating his mechanics, but who's to say (Me. I am. That's what I'm saying)? Either way, that's a major league physique that Oviedo is rocking these days.
After being nearly untouchable at Palm Beach, Oviedo struggled at Springfield. He can be filthy, but sometimes he pitches on the defense. This is what we saw out of him over his first nine starts at AA. He was trying to strikeout everyone, and it was obvious. He was trying to pitch perfectly, and it wasn't happening. Oviedo was 3.2 years younger than the Texas League, on average, and you could see that the older and more advanced hitters weren't falling for it.
While struggling at first at AA, there were still signs of promise. For instance, and to show you how nasty Johan can be, he struck out 48 in 46.2 innings over those nine starts while pitching defensively. On the "not good" side, hitters slashed 326/412/513 against him. He was working behind in counts, and it was killing him.
However, once Oviedo settled in, we really started to see the type of pitcher that he is capable of being. The majesty of Oviedo is in his ability to limit both contact and slug. Over his next 13 starts (13 of his last 14 starts on the season), Oviedo held hitters to a batting average against of .218 and a slugging percentage against of .328. During these 62 innings, Oviedo struck out 73, and he only allowed 5 home runs. Getting ahead of hitters more frequently was key for him, even if he still wasn't throwing enough strikes.
The issue is, the on-base percentage against of .332 that he allowed was actually higher than the slugging percentage allowed.
So, obviously, the issue with Oviedo is his command. He only threw strikes 60% of the time on the season. He has to continue to get the ball into the strike zone. Sometimes he's really sharp, but often times he's just kinda throwing the ball. The reports this spring training are very positive in regards to his command, but I'm going to wait and see. I know that it's been fun to watch his mid-90's fastball (which, fortunately, isn't having the same velocity issues that it once had) continue to progress, and it's been even more fun to watch Oviedo work his slider and changeup off of that big fastball.
Oviedo's slider has a chance to be a true "plus" pitch, but his command of it has limited his effectiveness with it thus far. Again, he doesn't command any of his pitches at a level above "average" on a regular basis right now, but they are all wicked pitches. Sometimes, it looks like his curveball is really working, too. He's really something special when that is happening. Sometimes he jumps off of the mound to throw it, too. One thing that I really love about Johan is that his arm speed never changes, and his arm speed is lightning fast to begin with.
The easiest way to tell what kind of command Oviedo is going to have on any given night is to keep an eye on how he is finishing his motion. His command is generally betraying him when he is standing straight up and not burying his arm. Unless I'm not seeing it properly, it seems like this might be a product of shortening up his planting leg too much, as well.
Oviedo has a little work to do against lefties, as well. It's more of an approach issue than anything else. I want to say that he would benefit from using his changeup more against them, but the truth is that he is just going to have to get better at commanding everything that he throws. The truth is, Oviedo struck out more lefties (25.9%) than he does righties (24.02%) in 2019. Unfortunately, the batting average against lefties was .028 points higher, the on-base percentage against lefties was .020 points higher, and the slugging by lefties was a modest .006 points higher. Just another picture to illustrate how good Oviedo's stuff is at suppressing the ability to slug the ball.
I'm not exactly sure where Oviedo is going to start the season at, but it would surprise me if he was knocking on the major league door by the end of the season. It seems clear that this is what the Cardinals envision out of him for the 2020 season, as well.
Truth be told, Oviedo is as close to a right-handed throwing version of Genesis Cabrera as the organization is capable of having. His arm is dynamic, but he still has a lot of work to do in his pursuit of commanding his arm. Luckily, Oviedo doesn't have nearly as much work to do to maintain his delivery as Genesis still does. That's a tremendous advantage for him.
Oviedo has a big fastball and a potentially "plus" secondary offering in a slider, but with work to do on a changeup and a curve. Sometimes the curve can be really good, and that's when he is dominating. Regardless of which pitches are on or off, Oviedo has to get better with his command. Luckily, if the reports out of spring training are to be believed, this is already proving to be manifested. On the season, Oviedo struck out about 25% of hitters, but he did it while walking 11.6% combined between A+ and AA. He's worked hard to get his body into major league shape, now it's time to get the command there. If not, then this potential top of the rotation arm is going to be relegated to a bullpen role in the long term.
While 2019 was a bit of a breakout for this young man, he appears to be poised to have a real "coming out" in 2020, if his command will allow for it.
Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs.
Thanks For Reading!!