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Is Johan Oviedo Ready for His MLB Breakthrough

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

There has been plenty of buzz around Johan Oviedo in summer camp. This is one of the more surprising developments as he only reach Double-A last season and posted a 5.65 ERA and 4.13 FIP at the level. However. he impressed in Spring Training and has continued to impress the Cardinals coaching staff in the summer. However, due to his limited track record against advanced minor league competition, it is fair to wonder if Oviedo is ready to make the jump to the majors this year.

Oviedo may not make the MLB roster, but if he does not then he will likely be ready to go in case of an injury, so there is a decent chance that Oviedo will make his debut this season.

Like most young, tall pitchers, The 6’6” Oviedo’s control is still a work in progress. At the Single-A level in 2018, the roght hander posted a BB/9 of 5.84. Then in 2019, he improved his walk rate to a still high 5.10 walks per nine innings in Double-A. However, Oviedo also improved his K/9 from 8.73 to 10.19. Due to this, he clearly profiles as a power arm and this may be why the Cardinals may be willing to give him a chance as a big league reliever this year.

Oviedo’s fastball can reach the mid-to-high 90s and he has also flashed a plus curveball that lacks consistency. Additionally, he also throws an above average changeup which tends to be more consistent than his curveball. With this mix of pitches, as well as a high strikeout rate in the minor leagues, the Cardinals may be hoping that he already has everything he needs to succeed in the majors. The 22-year-old made some strides with improving his high walk rate last season, but this would not be as significant in shorter bullpen stints. Additionally, pitching one or two innings stints would allow Oviedo’s fastball to tick even higher than usual.

The Cardinals have shown a willingness to push their highly rated power arms as Jordan Hicks reached the majors despite never pitching above the A-Advanced level. Hicks had been more successful in the minor leagues to that point, but he had also shown some issues with control as well. However, it appears that the Cardinals are willing to look past those issues for pitchers with the profile of a back-end reliever. This may benefit Oviedo and give him a chance to contribute to the big league team this year.

Oviedo has done all the right things so far this year as has talked about changing his diet and workout routine which has allowed him to improve his body composition. Additionally, he has spent a lot of time around the veteran pitchers on the Cardinals’ staff in order to improve his ability on the mound. These things must have surely caught the eye of the Cardinals coaching staff. However, he was also successful on the mound in Spring Training as he posted an 11.12 K/9 and 1.59 BB/9 to go with a 3.18 ERA. However, this success came in just 5 23 innings as he only made four appearances. However, this kind of success out of the bullpen may have convinced the Cardinals coaching staff to give him a long look in summer camp for a similar role.

Like Hicks, Ovideo may be able to successfully make his MLB breakthrough despite limited exposure to upper level minor league competition. However, there are plenty of red flags that would make this a risky move. Oviedo’s control and command over all of his pitches is still a work in progress, and if these things have not improved sufficiently then the Cardinals may be unnecessarily rushing the 22 year old to the big leagues. However, he power fastball and potentially plus curveball may allow him to be successful against big league competition and it appears that he may get the chance to show what he can do at the big league level.