The Pittsburgh Pirates only really have one breakout starting pitcher candidate, and that’s Johan Ovideo. The Pirates acquired Oviedo in the José Quintana/Chris Stratton swap. He, alongside Malcom Nunez, made their way over from the St. Louis Cardinals. Oviedo was a former top-10 prospect in the Cards’ system and now will get the opportunity to make regular starts.
Before the Pirates acquired Oviedo, he mainly had worked out of the Cardinals’ bullpen this season, and he made just one start in 14 total appearances. The Pirates moved him directly into their starting five once he was stretched out at Triple-A for a few games, and his results were pretty decent.
Oviedo only started seven games and pitched 30.2 innings, but he allowed just 11 earned runs for a 3.23 ERA. Along with a healthy ERA, he also put up a 54.5% ground ball rate and held opponents to an 88.4 MPH exit velocity. It’s no surprise he allowed just a single home run. Even better was he held opponents to a .198 BA. The two downsides were his 20.9% strikeout rate and 11.9% walk rate. But like Contreras, Oviedo had a much better 24.4% strikeout rate at Triple-A and struck out 27% or more of the batters he faced in three of his seven starts in Pittsburgh.
The most promising development Ovideo made was throwing harder once he moved into the starting rotation. Oviedo averaged out at 95.6 MPH with his four-seamer 85.9 MPH with his slider during his time in St. Louis. But then he upped that to 96.5 MPH and 86.5 MPH, respectively, with the Bucs. Typically when a pitche goes from the bullpen to the rotation, you see a decrease in velo.
2023 will be the right-hander’s age-25 campaign. It will also be his first shot at getting regular starts at the major league level. Oviedo showed some impressive stuff with the Pirates down the stretch and is arguably Pittsburgh’s most prominent breakout candidate for 2023, regardless of position.