Pittsburgh Pirates: Each Breakout Candidate for 2023
By Noah Wright
An injury to JT Brubaker opened up a prime opportunity for Johan Oviedo to grab a rotation spot and now is his opportunity to run away with it. The Pirates acquired Oviedo last trade deadline when they sent left-handed veteran Jose Quintana to the St. Louis Cardinals for Oviedo and first base prospect Malcom Nunez. Oviedo played sparingly in St. Louis but now gets a chance at regular starts in 2023.
Oviedo was sent to Triple-A after the Pirates acquired him, as the Cards mostly utilized him as a reliever. After getting his workload up, the Pirates recalled the young right-hander made a great first impression. It was only 30.2 innings, but Oviedo worked to a 3.23 ERA, 3.47 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP. His 20.9% strikeout rate nor his 11.9% walk rate were all that impressive, but he only allowed a single home run and had an outstanding 54.5% ground ball rate.
Oviedo has the stuff to get his strikeout rate above average. Oviedo's fastball velocity jumped from 95.6 MPH to 96.5 MPH after going from the Cardinals' bullpen to the Pirates' rotation. His slider also saw an uptick in velocity from 84.9 MPH to 86.5 MPH. His slider, in particular, induced a ton of great results, and batters swung and missed at it over a third of the time. His curveball is a slept-on offering, which held opponents to a wOBA under .200 against it. In the small Spring Training sample size, he has a 27% strikeout rate against what has been Triple-A caliber opponents.
It's certainly nice to see Oviedo get the starting rotation spot he deserves. It's just unfortunate it had to come at the expense of JT Brubaker's health. Regardless, Oviedo wasn't ranked as a top-ten prospect in the Cardinals' system for no reason. The upward trend he set last season is another positive.