St. Louis Cardinals: Johan Oviedo showing he needs more time

ST LOUIS, MO - APRIL 11: Johan Oviedo #59 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning at Busch Stadium on April 11, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - APRIL 11: Johan Oviedo #59 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning at Busch Stadium on April 11, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals rushed Johan Oviedo to the MLB in 2020 and despite efforts to keep him here in 2021, he is showing he needs more seasoning.

From what the plan was at the beginning of 2020, the St. Louis Cardinals are missing three of their five planned starters. Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, and Dakota Hudson are all out for various lengths of time, and because of that, pretty much all the depth the Cardinals have touted for years is being used up.

This began in 2020 when the Cardinals were forced to debut a ton of pitchers after their COVID-19 breakout, one being tall righty Johan Oviedo.

Oviedo, still just 23, had never pitched above AA when he was called up in 2020 and the result was a not-so-stellar 5.47 ERA last year. This year, Oviedo has ridden the Memphis shuttle back and forth, making nine spot starts so far with the Cardinals and two starts with the AAA Redbirds. Just like 2020, the results haven’t been great for Oviedo as he’s still got an ERA over 5.00.

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When players jump levels to get to the MLB, it’s often a sink-or-swim situation. In Oviedo’a case, it’s hard not to dream of what he could become, with his 95+ mph fastball and 6’5” frame. However, it’s clear that Oviedo needs some more time at the minor league level to be able to hold his own at the MLB. Oviedo has good stuff, he just doesn’t seem to trust it yet.

Let me also be clear, this isn’t some grand original idea I’ve had. I don’t exactly know where the idea first came from, but around Oviedo’s fifth start of the year, the chirps started coming.

One clear reason why I feel confident calling Oviedo’s confidence into question is his walks. At the MLB level this season, he has 5.2 walks per nine. Clearly that isn’t good, nor is it sustainable. At AAA though, even though it has only been two starts, Oviedo’s walks per nine only sit at 2.3.

Combining this knowledge with what it looks like watching Oviedo, and it’s clear he’s trying to be too perfect, tries to nibble the edge of the zone, falls behind, and ends up putting himself in more trouble.

The sad thing for Oviedo and the Cardinals is that presently there isn’t really anyone else available to take the innings that Oviedo is attempting to cover. In a perfect world, Zack Thompson would be ready by now to jump in, but he hasn’t looked close at AAA yet. Maybe later this season that changes or the Cardinals decide they are ready to start Matthew Liberatore’s clock, but right now it is not happening.

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One way there is a rock, the other there is a hard place, and all the while the Cardinals keep falling in the standings waiting for things to get better. In the long run, Oviedo has plenty of potential, he just hasn’t made the necessary adjustment just yet.

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