Making a Case For Johan Oviedo

2-22-23 – By Michael Castrignano – @412DoublePlay on Twitter

With Spring Training off and running, I decided to dive into the roster and try to determine who could be a breakout player in 2023. I kept coming back to one name, someone who I saw sitting with Rich Hill last week and appearing to be in deep conversation about a very particular pitch for which Hill is well-known. You already saw the title so you know I’m talking about Johan Oviedo. Let’s dive into it.

Oviedo came over last season from St. Louis as part of the Jose Quintana/Chris Stratton trade, which included Malcom Nuñez for the Pirates. He worked mostly in relief for the Cardinals last year, as his first stint as a starter didn’t work out so well. 

Through the 2020-2021 seasons, Johan went 0-8 with a 5.07 ERA, good for a 79 ERA+ and a FIP of 5.28. He started the 2022 season in Triple-A Memphis, where he posted a 5.58 ERA over 10 starts to open the season.

The Cardinals, however, had seen enough and slotted him in the bullpen following his June 4th start against the Cubs, where he allowed 3 runs in 5 innings. He wouldn’t surrender multiple runs in a single outing the rest of his time in St. Louis before his trade to Pittsburgh.

Following the trade, the Pirates optioned Oviedo to Indianapolis to get him stretched back out as a starter. Here is his stat line: 5 G (4 S), 11.1 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BBs, 13 Ks. 

The Pirates were impressed enough to call him up to start a game at home against Toronto. He threw three shutout frames of 2-hit ball. And while he did walk 3 batters, it was a promising start. His next outing was not quite so rosy, as he allowed 4 runs in just 1.2 innings against the Mets. 

Pitchers of all levels will, at different points, deal with poor outings. The difference – typically learned with experience – is how to bounce back after a tough game. Oviedo finished the rest of the season with 26 innings pitched over 5 starts, and allowed just 7 runs off 20 hits with 8 walks against 22 strikeouts. Good for a 2.42 ERA.

So what caused this turn-around?

Oviedo’s best pitch last year was his slider, which graded out with a run value of -8. For reference, Brewers reliever Devin Williams throws the filthiest change-up known to man. Run value on the pitch last season? You guessed it: -8. 

It’s a small sample size, yes, but Johan also had an adjusted run value/100 of -2.0 on the pitch. This is the same number Yankee’s starter Nestor Cortes had with his 4-seamer and Diamondback’s starter Zac Gallen showed on his curveball. That’s not bad company to keep.

Oviedo managed a 28.8 K% on the slider with a 33.8 Whiff%. In previous years, he was throwing the pitch less than 30% of the time, but in 2022, he threw it more than 40% of the time. See his splits below over the past three years for a noticeable improvement with the increased slider this past season:

His mix of pitches also includes a rising fastball (which can touch 100), a diving curve in the upper-70s, and a changeup which still needs some polish – but could also be a solid weapon in his already interesting arsenal. 

It has been suggested by multiple sources that Oviedo could potentially work in as a 6th starter early on in the season, which could lighten the workload of the rotation and keep him in the mix. Oscar Marin has stated that they believe in his ability to be a starter and are not looking to move him to the bullpen. 

Fans will talk about future rotation pieces for the Bucs in Luis Ortiz, Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows – and deservedly so. Oviedo has the potential to be better than all of them, especially if he truly is working on his curveball with Rich Hill.

One thought on “Making a Case For Johan Oviedo

  1. Great stuff, putting into words and numbers the upside I could see while watching him last year. He could be quite a steal, and from the friendly regional witches, no less. The thought of a starter with a high-90s fastball placed on all edges and conceivably the best slider while implementing tutelage from the best curve-thrower? What a dream; here’s hoping we live it.

    Liked by 1 person

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