Johan Oviedo has been a bright spot for the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation in 2023, where could he fit into the team's long-term plans?
Johan Oviedo was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates almost a year ago to the day. The former St. Louis Cardinal top pitching prospect was finally given a chance this year to prove what he can do with an extended look in the big leagues, and he’s been a solid starter for the Bucs.
However, moving forward, the Pirates might have a boatload of starting pitchers, so where does Oviedo fit in the long-term picture?
Oviedo currently owns a 4.53 ERA, 4.18 FIP, and 1.36 WHIP through 107.1 innings of work. While the right-hander hasn’t had very many strikeouts with a 20.4% strikeout rate, and his 9.1% walk rate is only so-so, he does have a 0.92 HR/9 and 46.6% ground ball rate. It also helps that Oviedo is above average in exit velocity, clocking in at 88.7 MPH and in the 56th percentile.
The one thing Oviedo has struggled with is being consistent on a game-by-game basis. In his 19 starts, nine have lasted at least 6 innings with him allowing 2 earned runs or less. However, five more have lasted 5 or fewer innings, while 3 or more earned runs scored.
However, while consistency is his biggest issue, it’s his only issue and one that’s not uncommon for young starters, especially ones who are getting their first extended look against Major League batters.
Going into Spring Training, many saw Oveido potentially carving out a bullpen role for himself. There was relief risk when the Pirates acquired Oviedo, and this would be his first time getting regular starts in the Major Leagues. Plus, at the time, the Pirates had a handful of potential starting pitchers, with Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, JT Brubaker, Rich Hill, Vince Velasquez, and Luis Ortiz all vying for one of the five rotation spots. However, Brubaker’s Tommy John surgery in April opened the door for Oviedo, and I think it’s safe to say he took that opportunity and ran with it.
At this point, I think Oviedo has more than proven he can be a good Major League starting pitcher. His consistency could simply be solved by getting more reps in the Majors, and figuring out his place. But you also have to consider that by this time next year, the Pirates will have a ton of top prospects pushing for rotation spots.
365 days from now, you’re potentially talking about Keller being backed by their 2023 first-round pick, Paul Skenes, as well as former second-rounders Jared Jones and Anthony Solometo, along with Quinn Priester.
It’s very likely the Pirates give Contreras a second look in the rotation, at least to start the year. You have to factor in a potential rebound from him. Also, what about Ortiz? What if he figures it out and starts to pitch like he did in late-2022? Then in late-2024, you might even see the return of Mike Burrows.
If you ask me, there’s no such thing as too many pitchers, and I’m sure this is a ‘problem’ many Pirates fans would welcome with open arms. So with that amount and level of talent coming up, where will Oviedo be one year from now?
The first thing is I doubt they’ll move him to the bullpen if he continues pitching like he has. He’s done more than enough this year to prevent that from happening, at least for now. The second thing is I think the Pirates will find a way for Oviedo to get starts in.
I like Priester, I really do, but there’s a reason many evaluators aren’t super high on him, especially over the likes of Solometo, Jones, Thomas Harrington, and others currently in the system. I want to see Priester succeed, but in my personal opinion, I think Oviedo has a higher ceiling than Priester. Very well could see Oviedo overtaking Priester on any depth chart unless Priester all of a sudden forces himself into ace status.
Whatever the case may be for Oviedo and the Pirates, I think he’ll find a way to get starts for the team next year and beyond. If this happens to be a problem, so be it. I think many teams would like to have the issue of having more than five good starting pitchers, and having to find regular starts for all of them.