Determining if These Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects Are Starters or Relievers

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 16: Kyle Nicolas #95 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 16: Kyle Nicolas #95 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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Jul 16, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Johan Oviedo (59) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 16, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Johan Oviedo (59) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports /

Johan Oviedo

The Pittsburgh Pirates most recent addition to this list is Johan Oviedo. Oviedo came over as a young, hard-throwing arm in the José Quintana trade. Oviedo mainly had pitched out of the bullpen this year but was a starting pitcher when he first arrived in the big leagues.

Oviedo has tossed 25.1 innings out of the Cardinals’ bullpen this year, pitching to the tune of a solid 3.20 ERA, 4.07 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. His 24.1% strikeout rate might not wow anyone, but a quality 6.5% walk rate. This leads to a K:BB ratio of 3.71. Oviedo’s biggest downfall has been home runs, which he has surrendered at a 1.42-per-9 pace. But he has a groundball rate around league average while holding opponents to just an 86 MPH exit velo and 33.8% hard-hit rate. His 3.77 xFIP shows there’s room for improvement.

Only one of Oviedo’s 24 outings has been a start, and that was his first major league game of 2022. The rest of his innings have come out of the bullpen. In 2020 and 2021, Oviedo had 19 appearances, with 18 being starts. The numbers weren’t as impressive, though, as he put up a 5.07 ERA, 5.28 FIP, and 1.52 WHIP, albeit in only 87 innings.

Oviedo has mostly been a starting pitcher in the minor leagues as well, with 93 of his 98 games played being starts. But the numbers aren’t that great. He has a 4.69 ERA, 4.23 FIP, and 1.49 WHIP. His 23.6% strikeout rate and .77 HR/9 aren’t bad, but he suffers from mediocre control, indicated by his 12% walk rate.

Oviedo is a fastball/slider/curveball pitcher. He’s significantly decreased his curveball usage, and nearly completely dropped his change-up. Even his curveball only has been used 10.9% of the time this year. He’s become much more of a fastball/slider-only pitcher. But his curve does have average spin.

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Having Oviedo improve his curveball isn’t like trying to teach him a new pitch like it would be with Ortiz and his changeup. It already has a decent ceiling. I’d like to see the Pirates at least toy with the right-hander as a starter this year. If he fails, move him to the bullpen next season. But I think you should at least toy with him in the rotation now in a lower-pressure environment with less competition.

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