Pittsburgh Pirates Facing a Conundrum with Luis Oviedo


With Luis Oviedo struggling the Pittsburgh Pirates face a conundrum of what to do with the talented Rule 5 Draft selection

During the MLB portion of this past offseason’s Rule 5 Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates added a pair of pitchers. One pitcher they added was right-handed pitcher Jose Soriano who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery and rehabbing with Low-A Bradenton.

The other pitcher the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired was righty Luis Oviedo. The Pirates acquired Oviedo after he was selected by the New York Mets, and then traded to the Pirates. When the Pirates acquired Oviedo they put themselves in a position that they must keep him on their active roster throughout the season or else risk having to return his rights to the Cleveland Indians.

In Monday night’s loss against the Kansas City Royals the young righty made his 11th appearance of the season. Oviedo allowed 2 runs in his lone inning of work, breaking open the game in favor of the Royals.

On the season Oviedo has struggled to the tune of a 8.10 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 13.9% walk rate, 18.9% strikeout rate and he’s allowed home runs at a 1.62 HR/9 rate. Additionally, he has been scored upon in 7 of his 11 relief appearances.

While Oviedo has struggled this season it is easy to see why the Pirates remain high on him. At just 22-years-old, he was 21 when the season start, Oviedo has made the jump from having never pitched above the High-A level to pitching in the Majors. While making this jump Oviedo has done so while looking clam and confident on the mound, which you would not expect from a pitcher who was making the jump from High-A to MLB, especially after not pitching in a single game last season due to the lack of a minor league season.

Oviedo also has the pure stuff needed to be a quality MLB pitcher. He throws a power fastball that averaged 95.4 MPH, as well as a curveball and slider that each have the potential to be plus pitches.

Entering play on Monday opposing batters were just 4-fro-17 off of Oviedo’s slider. All 4 of the hits were singles and the pitch was generating a 31.4% whiff rate. His curveball, featuring a spin rate of 2263 RPM, had generated a 50.0% whiff rate entering Monday night with opposing batters being 0-for-8 off of the pitch.

The issue for Oviedo is he has struggled with control leading to him throwing his fastball more. Opposing batters have had their way with his fastball slugging over .700 off of the pitch. He has also allowed far too much hard contact with opposing batters having a 50% hard-hit rate off of his pitches, while averaging an exit velocity of 90.8 MPH which is 2.5 MPH above the league average.

If Oviedo continues to struggle as much as he has the Pittsburgh Pirates will struggle to justify being able to keep him on the active roster, even during a rebuilding season. Due to this Ben Cherington may want to explore working out a trade with Cleveland to keep Oviedo in the Pirate organization, allowing him to work on things in the minors.

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Additionally, Oviedo still projects as a potential starting pitcher down the road. In an ideal world the Pittsburgh Pirates would most likely want Oviedo to be in the starting rotation with either Double-A Altoona or Triple-A Indianapolis. As the Pirates face a conundrum of what to do with Oviedo, they may want to soon explore this potential trade with the Indians in order to allow Oviedo to work on things in the minors as he continue to work to harness his plus stuff.