St. Louis’ Hidden Missile Project

Time to pay more attention to Johan Oviedo.

The Cardinals’ 2016 international signing class included three young Cubans currently making their big league presence known; Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia, albeit with other organizations, and a young pitcher flying under the radar, potentially forcing his way into the rotation, Johan Oviedo. Oviedo made an ahead of schedule debut in 2020 when COVID struck the Cardinals hard (he too landing on the list) and although his performance didn’t yield eye-popping results, progress was obvious, and two 2021 appearances are peeling back more improvements.

Oviedo’s mid to high 90s fastball as a physically imposing teenager earned him a nice 1.9M signing, yet his minor career failed to land him big prospect prestige. International pitching prospects tend to have a tougher time garnering such accolades but Oviedo has maintained a steady progression chipping away the concerns big teenage arms come with, transforming into a viable big-leaguer. It’s not just a big arm anymore. Matter of fact, it’s not even the fastball, rather a guy appearing to transform into a pitcher. Listed at 6’5″ 245 lbs, with three to four legit offerings and starting to carve out his place, it’s time to pay more attention.

2020 was slated to be his AAA year, but it’s gone like this instead:



I was skeptical the big pitcher with erratic control outings in 2019 would fair well in the bigs so soon, so these 2020 numbers surprised. As a dynasty manager, he firmly sounded my alarm.  Putting together the Cardinals’ top 50 (#5), I went back and watched several of Oviedo’s 2019 double-A starts. In short, they impressed with raw stuff but left much to be desired in way of command/control. Having walked four in 9.2 innings this season (3.67 BB/9 over 34.2 MLB innings), he’s sitting at the best end of the free pass spectrum he’s shown as a pro.

We are still prospecting here, and I want to caution putting too much weight into some very small Statcast numbers, but it’s the best idea we’ve gotten thus far. It’s just a glimpse and we are talking about a young pitcher yet to prove long-term consistency. Over his 9.2 2021 innings, he’s gotten a 41.8% Whiff…that’s 98th percentile type craziness. He hasn’t got hitters chasing often, but his stuff is playing well in the zone, better than last year. His 34.4% CSW is a top ten in baseball-type number. I’m not going to pretend I know where these numbers settle, but this is enough for me to gobble him up wherever I can in large dynasty leagues. I even made a stream and speculative move in a 12-team points league.

Even now, on Fantrax’ dynasty-heavy platform, he’s currently only 20% owned. As I’ve written and spoken to Kyle Brown about (On The Farm podcast), I don’t tend to carry big-name prospects, especially pitchers, and Oviedo may be the perfect example of how I have been able to get away with it.

2021 may be showing some real improvements:



Four-Seam Fastball

45.0% of offerings vs R / 50.5% vs L

CSW: 29.6% vs R / 28.3% vs L


Avg 96.0 mph – Movement comp: German Marquez – Spin and velocity comp: Yimi Garcia


The four-seamer was his moneymaker as a teenager, but its current state probably won’t be as a big leaguer. He’s sitting at a premium level velocity-wise, but it’s flat and straight. German Marquez’ fastball has been far from devastating and they are somewhat similar in shape. Yimi Garcia’s fastball, which may be a closer comp in way of velocity, has fared better. Neither comps really excites and this pitch pales in comparison to his breaking balls’ effectiveness, but if polish comes here, namely getting more action from the spin, it may play up.

The plot below is the extra-base hits Oviedo surrendered dating back to last season. Ten of twelve off the fastball. The good news is he’s commanding it much better than he had at points coming up the ranks.




8.3% of offerings vs R / 20.9% vs L

CSW: 2 out of 5 vs R / 31.6% vs L

Avg 76.9 mph – Velocity and Movement comp: Aaron Sanchez


Whether or not Oviedo becomes a successful major league starter or bullpen option may depend on the curveball and its effectiveness against lefties. It’s pretty similar to Aaron Sanchez’s current main weapon and a potential source of newfound success with its 83rd percentile spin, speed, and shape. However, Oviedo doesn’t quite harness it very well, as the plot below suggests. At one point, the curveball was Oviedo’s main secondary in the minors where it and lack of fastball command limited him. When thrown well, like above, its 12-5 break is nasty.




43.3% of offerings vs R / 17.6% vs L

 CSW: 50.0% (13/26) vs R / 37.5% vs L

Avg 85.2 mph – Velocity and movement comp: Spencer Turnbull


Now we are talking major league money-making. The slider has been Oviedo’s greatest developmental accomplishment, as the pitch is relatively new and the gains made are taking him to another level. He commands this pitch far better than the curve as the plot below shows and the 50% CSW illustrates a problem for hitters, at least this first look at him. It’s hard to think the whiffs in the zone can stay at this level and it wouldn’t surprise if more of the following starts happening. I wonder if the combination of wanting to keep walks down and some less than stellar slider placement has some calibrating to do. Oviedo commands the slider well enough, but he may not get away with a plot like below as often, especially against lefties if the curveball isn’t there for him. This is the only such glaring mistake so far:





3.3% of offerings vs R / 11.0% vs L

 CSW: 1 out of 2 vs R / 3 out of 10 vs L


Avg 89.3 mph – Total comp: José Ureña but better.


Oveido’s changeup just may be developing into a decent offering to help get lefties out. Considering how far this pitch has come over the last two years, it’s worth watching. I don’t think I saw him land one in the zone in 2020 but this year he seems to have gotten a better feel. Left is 2021, right 2020:




The change doesn’t get the velocity difference you’d probably want, but as the gif showed, there is some decent tailing action. It almost feels more like a two-seam fastball, but that is definitely a changeup grip.

The fastball/slider vs righties is playing well and gives me confidence in Ovideo moving forward, much more so than the fastball/curve/changeup vs lefties, but his development has been a consistent upward trend. The steady improvements year after year is what excites me the most. No huge jump, but no huge decline either. This isn’t a typical path for young pitchers. The Cardinals are interested in exploring the possibilities of a future rotation piece in Oviedo, at least for now carving out some major league starts with rumors a six-man rotation could be an option moving forward.


Dynasty Take


Considering Oviedo’s placement on prospect lists, I’m already calling this a miss as a whole. He didn’t start landing in my 30 team leagues until this offseason. It happens with pitching. We have a 23-year-old with some real MLB tools, a body to log innings, and even some pedigree. Oviedo has shown smooth improvement that more heralded pitching prospects rarely achieve. As a dynasty owner, this is my dream kind of pitching target; basically free and upside to be a real rotation piece. Consider some other 23-year-olds and where they are at, Oviedo has passed many.

Oviedo is far from proven an ability to be consistent other than his annual gains as a prospect. It will take more than that. But I’m impressed enough to forgo any lack of name here and make a reasonably aggressive move; take a name guy like Hunter Greene, swap him for Oviedo and whatever else and I’m sleeping well.

I’m not anointing Oviedo some fantasy ace to come, there are warts as I’ve tried to show you, and far from any uninterrupted smooth sailing moving forward, but he’s as exciting as any young arm breaking in this underappreciated I’ve seen. I’m willing to take a chance on a young arm showing constant improvement, with proximity, gaining his organization’s favor with tools to potentially devastate major league hitting, all day long. If half the amount of gains are made as there were over the last two years, we may just find ourselves holding a dynasty ace after all, and we snuck him through in the night.

Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)

Nate Handy

Nate is an advocate of drafting more pitchers. Originally from the planet Eternia, he aspires to become the Master of the Prospect Universe....or just watch baseball, share observations, and have an enjoyable dialogue about this great game, particularly the young players trying to make the major leagues.

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