Pittsburgh Pirates: Previewing Potential Rotation Battle
The Bucs acquired Johan Oviedo at the trade deadline for Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton. Oviedo was once considered one of the St. Louis Cardinals' better prospects. Oviedo started the year out in the Cardinals' bullpen, making just a single start. Oviedo totaled 20.1 innings out of the pen, working to a strong 2.66 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. The young righty had a healthy 25.6% strikeout rate to go along with a fantastic 4.9% walk rate. But he also had a mediocre 1.33 HR/9.
However, Oviedo was primarily used as an SP throughout the minor leagues, and that's the role the Pirates slotted him into during September. Although it was just seven starts, he made the best of it, working to a 3.23 ERA, 3.57 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP. Oviedo's strikeout and walk rate moved in the wrong direction, as he had just a 20.9% strikeout rate and 11.9% walk rate but allowed just a single home run in 30.2 innings.
The more important thing is that Oviedo not only maintained his velocity after the move to the rotation but actually saw a slight uptick. Oviedo averaged out at 95.5 MPH with his fastball and 84.7 MPH with his slider as a member of the Cardinals' bullpen. But when he pitched out of the Pirates' rotation, he was hitting 96.5 MPH and 86.5 MPH, respectively.
Among the three options, Oviedo has the highest ceiling. 2023 will only be his age-25 campaign, making him the youngest. He also throws the hardest among the trio. Going into 2021, he was ranked as the Cards' eighth-best prospect. Command has always been one of Oviedo's weaker abilities. But he only walked more than three batters in just three of his seven outings in black and gold, one of which was a clunker start. Some project Oviedo to end up in the bullpen, but he certainly has the ability to be a very underrated starting pitcher breakout candidate.