When the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Jose Quintana to a one year deal before the season, all signs pointed to them planning on flipping the lefty at the trade deadline. They did, sending him to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Malcom Nunez and Johan Oviedo.
While Nunez is now playing in Indianapolis after starting at Double-A Altoona, Oviedo has slid into the Pirates rotation and pitched well in the majors after being given another opportunity to start.
After spending the last two years in the rotation for the Cardinals, Oviedo was moved to the bullpen to start 2022, before getting traded to the Pirates and being sent to Triple-A to get stretched back out as a starter.
In his most recent start for the Pirates, Oviedo struck out seven batters across seven shutout innings, showing that he certainly has the potential to remain a starter; and at 24-years-old, still has plenty of room to grow.
Part of the readjustment of becoming a starter is trusting his secondary stuff a little bit more. Oviedo has a good 1/2 combination in his mid-90s fastball along with wipeout slider, which works well in the bullpen, but more may be needed to have continued success in the rotation.
Oviedo is starting to use those pitches more in September, increasing his usage of his curveball and changeup.
In what was his most extensive work as a starter in 2021, and while he threw his fastball and slider collectively over 76% of the time, he still was able to mix in the changeup and curveball 11% and 11.4% of the time, respectively.
This year he has thrown the fastball and slider over 40% of the time each, with the changeup trailing behind at just 5% (curveball at 10%). In September he’s thrown the changeup 8.6% of the time, with his curveball usage right around what he has average throughout the season.
Here’s a look at some of the changeups that Oviedo threw during his time in Indianapolis. You can see the fade away from the lefties, and enough of a drop to get them swinging at pitches in the dirt. At the major league level, Oviedo’s small sample size numbers are eye popping.
He’s generating a whiff on nearly half of the swings on his changeup (42.9%), and hasn’t allowed a hit yet on it. Again, he hasn’t used it much, but when he does it’s a weapon. Oviedo could very well end up throwing the changeup more in September than he did the rest of the season combined.
The slider would probably be the likely choice as his best pitch, but for the amount of times he actually throws the curveball, Oviedo is getting a lot of value out of it.
Oviedo is able to throw the pitch for strikes and to get hitters to miss on either side of the plate. In the majors, opponents have just a .125 average against it, with an even stingier .105 expected batting average and .175 wOBA. His 24% putaway mark (rate of two strike pitches that end in strikeouts) is the best among his four pitches.
While it raised some eyebrows when Ben Cherington said they still thought of Oviedo as a starter, he is already doing his best to prove that point. The Pirates potentially have a very young and exciting rotation heading into 2023, and Oviedo is quickly playing himself into the conversation to open up the season in the majors as a starter.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.