Pittsburgh Pirates: Luis Oviedo’s Potential Role in 2021

The Pittsburgh Pirates will get a look at Rule 5 Draft selection Luis Oviedo in 2021, so what could the right-hander’s role be with the team?

During the Rule 5 Draft, the New York Mets selected right-handed pitcher Luis Oviedo from the Cleveland Indians. Soon after, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a trade with the Mets to acquire the prospect. Because of this, the Pittsburgh Pirates must keep Oviedo on the team’s 26-man roster throughout the entirety of the 2021 season or surrender him back to the Indians. Since they have to keep him in the Majors, what role could Oviedo fill in 2021?

Oviedo is mainly a starting pitching prospect, only coming out of the pen for seven of the 58 total games he has played. The Venezuela native product first made his presence known after a strong 2018 season with the Indians Low-A and High-A teams. All told, he tossed 57 innings with a 2.05 ERA, 2.44 FIP and0.98 WHIP. Oviedo struck out 29.9% of the batters he faced while having a walk rate of just 7.6%. He allowed only three home runs. This led to him being ranked as a top 100 prospect by Baseball Prospectus and a top 10 organizational prospect by MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs.

Oviedo struggled in 2019 putting up a 5.38 ERA, 4.41 FIP and 1.37 WHIP in 87 innings at High-A. The right-hander saw his strikeout rate drop to just 18.9% while his walk rate spiked to 10.5%. He remained good at limiting home runs with a HR/9 of just 0.62. Still, he was one of the Indians’ better pitching prospects at the end of the season. The Indians are known to be very good at developing pitching talent, making Oviedo a more interesting pitching prospect.

Oviedo stands at 6’5″ and weighs in at 235 pounds, giving him a large frame. He can run his fastball up into the upper-90s, topping out at 97 MPH and averaging 90-94 MPH. His fastball showed decent movement with MLB Pipeline describing it with sinking action. It has a future grade of 55. Oviedo throws two breaking pitches including a slider and curveball. He started throwing the ladder more often during 2019 and it’s become the better of the two breaking balls. His last pitch is a change up which is seen as an above average pitch by FanGraphs.

While he has mainly served as a starter throughout the minors, he could start the year out as one of the Pirates’ relievers. Oviedo had a great season in the Venezuelan Winter League this off season. He tossed 14.1 innings allowing just 9 hits, a single home run while walking four and striking out 10. All of this came in nine games out of the pen.

Looking at the Pirate rotation, the only locks as of now seem to be Joe Musgrove, Steven Brault and Mitch Keller. However, Musgrove has been heavily shopped and Brault has come up in rumors as well. Other options to fill out the rotation include Chad Kuhl, J.T. Brubaker and Cody Ponce. Another prospect the Pittsburgh Pirates could see later down the line in 2021 is Cody Bolton.

While Oviedo does have a shot to pitch out of the rotation, especially if Musgrove is traded, he might fare better out of the pen. He has the stuff to be a late inning arm, and his stuff would also play up as a relief pitcher. If he is able to handle higher leverage roles, he could be in competition for the closer role in the future.

Oviedo should at least be given a shot to pitch out of the rotation, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they view him as a bullpen arm. After all, he pitched extremely well as a relief pitcher in the Venezuelan Winter League.