While he's flown under the radar, Johan Oviedo has been a solid starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season
Arguably the biggest trade the Pittsburgh Pirates made at the 2022 trade deadline was sending veteran left-handed starting pitcher José Quintana to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return, the Bucs received two players.
One was corner infield prospect Malcolm Nunez, and the other was right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo. Oviedo had already played a handful of games in the major leagues but had yet to get an extended look, which is something the Pirates have been able to give him.
Oviedo’s strong September with the Pirates gave him the inside track on a starting pitching spot, which he grabbed in Spring Training. The right-hander has a 4.06 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 1.38 WHIP in 88.2 innings. While Oviedo’s 20.3% strikeout rate and 8.9% walk rate are unimpressive, he’s only allowed seven home runs all year.
The young right-hander has been so good at limiting the long ball because of his ability to induce both ground balls and soft contact. Oviedo has a 47% ground ball rate while also having an 88.5 MPH exit velocity (61st percentile) and a 39.3% hard-hit rate (49th percentile). Oviedo is also in the 63rd percentile of barrel rate at 7%.
ERA estimators do not like Oviedo, mostly because he doesn’t have a good strikeout or walk rate. His SIERA clocks in at 4.54, while his xFIP is in agreement at 4.46. Granted, these stats don’t account for his ability to induce soft contact while keeping the ball on the ground at an above-average rate. xERA, which does take said factors into account, is much more optimistic on Oviedo at 4.03.
While Oviedo has pitched well, his biggest hurdle this season has simply been consistency. Oviedo has made 16 starts. Of those 16 starts, he’s gone at least six innings while allowing two or fewer earned runs eight times. However, he’s also gone five or fewer innings while allowing three or more earned runs six other times.
But Oviedo is still only 25 years old. He’s already far surpassed his previous highest single-season Major League innings total, and this is also the first season he’s been able to get consistent reps as a starting pitcher in the major leagues. 2021 is the only other year he was given double-digit starts, and he was optioned a handful of times throughout that season and didn’t appear in a big league game after July 25th.
Oviedo has shown a ton of talent thus far. He’s done an admirable job for the Pirates and could be a potential key cog in their starting rotation for the foreseeable future (he doesn’t hit arbitration until after the 2024 season). If Oviedo can overcome his consistency issue and deal quality outings on a more consistent basis, he may just become one of baseball’s more underrated starters.