Since joining the Pittsburgh Pirates, right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo has impressed and looks like a potential building block for the starting rotation
Prior to the August 2nd trade deadline the Pittsburgh Pirates made the rare inner-division trade. This trade saw the Pirates send pitchers José Quintana and Chris Stratton to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In exchange for the veterans, the Pittsburgh Pirates received a pair of young players. These two players were slugging infield prospect Malcolm Nuñez and young right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo.
Prior to joining the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oviedo was pitching out of the Cardinal bullpen. Upon acquiring Oviedo, Ben Cherington and the Pirate brass had him sent to Triple-A Indianapolis. This was done so that Oviedo could stretch back out and return to working as a starting pitcher.
This decision was a bit of a controversial one. Oviedo worked as a starting pitcher earlier in his MLB career but had struggled in that role while he had pitched much better out of the bullpen. However, with Oviedo being just 24-years-old the Pirates decided to give him another chance as a starting pitcher. Thus far, that is looking like a great decision by the Pirates.
Friday night Oviedo returned to the mound at Busch Stadium as he made his sixth start with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Oviedo turned in another strong start, limiting the Cardinals to just 2 runs while striking out four in 6 innings pitched.
With the Pirates Oviedo has only had one poor start. This came against the New York Mets when he lasted just 1.2 innings. However, in this start Oviedo was hurt by an inconsistent strike zone. He was also working on new pitches in the start which likely contributed to his struggles.
Even including this start, Oviedo owns a 3.04 ERA and a 3.60 FIP in his six starts with the Pirates. Oviedo has pitched 26.2 innings in his six starts, including pitching a career high 7 innings two starts ago before following that up with a career high tying 103 pitches in his start against the Cardinals on Friday night.
Oviedo has allowed just one home run (0.54 HR/9) with the Pirates, while striking out 23.3% of batters faced. The only real struggle for Oviedo with the Pirates has been his control as he has walked 13.8% of batters faced. That said, this number is a bit inflated due to his poor start against the Mets. Outside of that start his walk rate drops to 10.4%.
During his time with the Pirates the young righty has also done a good job limiting quality contact. He has held opposing batters to an average exit velocity of 89.1 MPH and a barrel rate of 7.0%, both of which are below league average for hitters. Oviedo has also kept the ball on the ground generating a strong 50.7% ground ball rate. Limiting quality contact and keeping the ball on the ground is a great way for a pitcher to limit home runs and extra base hits.
A power fastball has been a driving force for Oviedo in his success. He has thrown fastball 43.4% of the time and it has averaged 96.5 MPH and has regularly touched the high-90s. His slider has also been a good pitch for Oviedo. Oviedo has thrown his slider 37.1% of the time and it has averaged a healthy 86.4 MPH. Oviedo has also mixed in a curveball and a changeup.
Oviedo could be in line to start the team’s season finale against the Cardinals on Wednesday. Even if Oviedo season is over, he has certainly made a strong first impression with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The odds of Oviedo starting the 2023 season in the Pirate starting rotation appear to be pretty high. Barring any sort of setback between now and Opening Day, Oviedo should be in the rotation and he could be in line for a breakout campaign in 2023.