Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Johan Oviedo - Right-Handed Pitcher
Full Season-A Peoria
Signed during the 2016 International signing period
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
For the last thirty minutes or so, I've struggled with how I should start this article. I’ve had to walk away and come back to it. It wasn't until right now that I realized I was trying to be too clever.
Instead, I'm just going to get down to business. The deal is, Oviedo has the capacity to be the best pitching prospect in the Cardinals' system. He has the size, the velocity, the stamina, the secondary offerings, and the body-type to be a top 100 player in the minor leagues.
What he doesn't have just yet is command or demonstrated consistency
Those things haven't come together all at once, just yet. After a rocky 2017 season, then a rocky start to the 2018 season, Oviedo underwent a pitching resurgence during the second half of the 2018 season. Oviedo still has so much to work on and that's what is keeping I'm off of the top half of this list. The foundation is there, though.
There is some good news, and it's that Oviedo was very good during the second half of the season.
It's the second half of the 2018 season that helps to put Oviedo this high on the list. I say "the second half," but it was more like the last 15 of his 25 appearances that really stood out. During this time period, Oviedo posted an ERA of 3.10 while holding hitters to a batting average of .219 and striking out 79 in 81.1 innings. As good as the batting average against was, he allowed a slugging percentage against of a DOMINANT .292. Over this time, he faced 310 batters and only allowed 12 extra base hits.
Also, he held opponents to three runs or less in 13 of these 15 appearances. He was very good for the last three months of the season.
Unfortunately, even when Oviedo is good, he still has a command/control problem. That part of his game did get better as the season went on, but it's still a concern. Over those last 15 appearances, he walked 12.9% of hitters and surrendered a WHIP of 1.36. In two of his last three starts he began to exhibit signs of growth in this department, but it regressed back to his average-high walk rates during his last start.
And this is where I have to state in it's own stanza that Oviedo is doomed if he can't get this under control. If he doesn't clean it up then he'll stall out. He's still so young, and he'll be pitching in the pitcher friendly Florida State League in 2019, so there are reasons to stay optimistic about his chances of figuring it out.
However, there is a such a long way to go before it's something that I'm willing to be completely comfortable writing off as "fixed."
Part of my concern is that Oviedo is, indeed, one of these tall pitchers that really struggles to repeat his delivery. One thing that I've noticed in particular is that he doesn't seem to extend out with his landing foot well enough, and consistently enough. This causes him to short-arm his pitches. Some times he spikes those pitches and some times he sails them, but one thing that is for sure is that it cost Oviedo both command and velocity when he does it. He does it too often, too.
Speaking of velocity, one of the reasons for Oviedo's success in the second half-plus of the 2018 was because he rediscovered the velocity that he was throwing before the 2017 season. Oviedo can hit the mid-to-upper 90's with his fastball, but he hardly did it at the beginning of the 2018 season, and almost never during the 2017 season. This was a big area of concern entering the year. It was a great sign to see him rediscover that velocity. Hopefully he's unlocked this for good. The first .gif in this article came last year. you can tell that his body is big and in need of a little work. The .gif below is of the second half of the 2018 season. He looks a lot more fit, doesn't he? Well, I firmly believe that conditioning is part of the reason that he was able to rediscover that velocity.
But even with all of these issues to work on, Oviedo checks in at the 21st spot on this list because of how well he's shown himself to be when he is controlling his body. To pair with that mid-90's fastball is both a curve and a changeup that *CAN BE* above-average-to-plus pitches, when consistent. You'll notice some of those breaking pitches in the .gif's above.
The issue is, of course, that he just doesn’t command or throw those pitches consistently. He did show a substantial increase in consistency with these two pitches during the second half, and that’s something exciting to build on. When he is commanding these pitches, they are devastating to hitters from both sides of the plate. The numbers will tell you that Oviedo has struggled against lefties thus far in his minor league career. That's because he's been so inconsistent with his offspeed offerings, and his fastball command isn't good enough yet to pound lefties inside.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Oviedo's prospect stock will live and die on if he can repeat the second half of the 2018 season. He's physically gifted with potentially "above-average" secondary offerings. He is going to be dynamic if he can just continue to make gains while repeating his delivery. The bottom line is that Oviedo has the body and the repertoire to be a starting pitcher at the next level. Of course, all of this commentary is just posturing if he can't command his arsenal. He appears poised to start the season in the advanced Florida State League. This pitcher's league will yield promising results, but we are going to have to keep a close eye on his command regardless of what the stats tell us.
MAY 1st UPDATE
Because he's been pitching at Palm Beach, I haven't been able to watch Oviedo yet to see how the mechanics are, and what kind of shape he's in. However, while listening to the games, there have been nothing but positive reports about his velocity. Oviedo appears to have put it all together, although he is still walking just a few too many. I'm anxious to see how much of Oviedo's success is because of the FSL and how much of his success is because he's just good. I have a feeling we'll be finding out by the end of the season at Springfield.
FanGrapahs is an amazing land of statistically analysis. Without that website, life would be more meaningless than it already is.
Thanks For Reading!!