Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE
#28: Johan Oviedo, RHP
6’6”, 210 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right
DOB: 2 March 1998; Signed Cuba 2016
Level(s) in 2017: Johnson City (SS), State College (SS+)
Notable Numbers: 24.8% K, 10.4% K-BB (JC), 18.8% K, 10.1% K-BB (SC)
So, what’s so great about this guy?
One of the Cards’ more interesting investments in the 2016 international signing period, Oviedo came out of Cuba with a mid-90s fastball that topped out at 98 and a hammer curveball that he commanded surprisingly well for an eighteen year old.
The bad news first: Oviedo, in his first full season of pro ball, didn’t show the same kind of dynamic stuff he did last year. The velocity was mostly in the same range early on in the season as it had been, but dropped as the year went on, finishing up more like 90-91 at the end of the campaign. The curveball didn’t have quite the same bite, either, as Oviedo looked in general like a pitcher who simply wasn’t throwing with the same kind of arm speed he had in the past. Why that would be I don’t know; injury cannot be entirely ruled out, but perhaps it was simply fatigue setting in. If that’s the case, it’s still concerning, as Oviedo only threw about 75 innings total this year.
The good news is this: Oviedo is still a physically huge, athletically gifted pitcher who showed premium velocity at times this year, and did manage to improve his control and command substantially as the season went on. The curveball was smaller and tighter, but he threw it for strikes, which was a plus. I saw a little of Oviedo at State College, and he seemed to be working down more often, with good movement, so I wonder if perhaps there was a change in fastball usage. What he threw in the New York-Penn League looked more like a two-seamer to me, whereas I had been led to believe he was strictly a blazing fast four-seam guy when he was signed. He’s big enough to get that coveted downhill plane on the pitch regardless. He throws a changeup that still needs a whole lot of work, and what looked like a little cutter that actually got some swings and misses from righties at times.
We’ll have to wait and see what the velocity looks like for Oviedo in 2018; if it creeps back up into the mid 90s, he’ll quickly regain a whole lot of that lost lustre from this season. If not, he’s still got a heavy fastball that would seem to be suited for getting grounders and a good curve. His stock could quickly go either way, though, depending upon how he looks early next season.
If he’s good, it will look like: This is a tough one for me, because Oviedo looked like two very different pitchers depending upon when you saw him. The good version, for me, looks something like early-career John Lackey, with that high-octane fastball and big overhand curve working in tandem from a big, physical pitcher. Oviedo has a long way to go to get anywhere near that, though, and it all begins with seeing how he holds up to a full season workload in 2018.