The St. Louis Cardinals are depth strapped in the starting pitching category right now. So what do they have in Johan Oviedo?
Johan Oviedo, currently the No. 12 prospect in the organization, made his debut with the Cardinals in the shortened 2020 season. Like many others in the organization and even across MLB, Oviedo was likely thrown into the big leagues possibly a bit prematurely due to the doubleheaders and lack of off days. But while the numbers Oviedo produced might show that he did not produce excellent results, there is reason to believe he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.
The Cuban native Oviedo is a four-pitch pitcher (FB, SL, CB, CH) who loves to mix up his pitches and has the ability to throw each pitch confidently in any count. Confidence is not something he lacks. If you watch any sort of video of Oviedo (which you can find on the Baseball Savant website), something that is easy to notice is that almost every delivery looks somewhat different. The position of his knee on the rise, the positioning of the glove during the delivery, the arm slot on release, and even the speed of his overall windup. Even if it is in the slightest bit, it can hurt release point and thus location of your pitches. It is not easy to get a 6-foot-5, 245 pound body to do the exact same thing every time, but he will need to become more consistent to be successful in the majors.
Oviedo was near the bottom of the rankings across the entire MLB when it comes to hard hit percentile, exit velocity percentile, opposing batting average and opposing slugging percentage. Combined, they do not sound like the stats of a promising pitcher. Be patient with this young starter. He is only 22 years old and arrived in less-than-ideal circumstances Jack Flaherty did not shine in his opening year either (six games, 6.33 ERA, 21 years old).
No, I am not saying that Oviedo is going to come out and be as successful as Flaherty was/is. He is not near the strikeout pitcher that Flaherty is and does not miss nearly as many bats. What Oviedo is and what he will be is a serviceable No. 3 or 4 starting pitcher who will keep you in games. Now, he gets a full offseason to work with the Cardinals’ coaching staff who will help him become more consistent and keep hitters off balance. He has the look of someone who could become a serious force and if helped by the right people, could be a potential breakout candidate.