Name: Oscar Tovar
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 160
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent in August 2014
Every year there is one player who is included in these top-50 prospect rankings who is a sleeper. While Oscar Tovar may not be that well known outside of the Oakland A’s organization yet, his name generates a buzz within the organization already.
Tovar has the smallest track record of any of the players on our 2016 top-50 list, but he has one of the highest ceilings. The 17-year-old was signed as an amateur free agent out of Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, in August 2014. The right-hander spent his pro debut season in the Dominican Summer League and then made his US debut in the A’s fall Instructional League this year. Tovar didn’t pitch in many games in Instructs, but he had an opportunity to show the A’s US instructors why those A’s instructors who work in the team’s Dominican complex believe Tovar has the best arm in their program.
Oscar Tovar 2015 stats
During the 2015 regular season, Tovar threw 55.1 innings for the A’s DSL team. He allowed just 35 hits and no homeruns. Tovar posted a 2.60 ERA. His K:BB was mediocre (26:22), but Tovar flashed a fastball that sat mid-90s and tipped 97 and two promising secondary offerings.
Tovar was one of two players from the A’s Dominican Academy to make his US debut in Instructs this fall. The other was a rangy right-hander named Wandisson Charles who also features a plus fastball, although his secondary pitches aren’t nearly as developed as Tovar’s. Tovar doesn’t have Charles’ size (Tovar is currently 6’1’’, 160), but Tovar has the ability to spin a breaking ball and has a good feel for his change-up. He pitches in the lower half of the strike-zone and has been a quick study in his year-plus of pro ball.
“He shows a big arm with an understanding of a good change-up and a really good breaking ball,” former A’s minor league pitching coordinator Garvin Alston said. “The only problem with Tovar right now – and this happens to a lot of Dominican and Venezuelan ballplayers when they come over for the first time, they want showcase everything and overthrow – and that was his issue.
“He threw quite a bit in our mini-camp games that we had down here for the simple fact that we wanted to ease the pressure that you would have going out there and facing another team. In doing so, he had two outings that were absolutely horrendous and he couldn’t throw a strike. Then his last three outings, he started to get the ball around the plate. Then we put him in a real game and he dominated the inning.”
Tovar isn’t particularly tall, but he should add more bulk as he matures physically. His pitching repertoire is reminiscent of former A’s starter Rich Harden, although Tovar still has plenty of raw edges to smooth. With three pitches that are potentially major-league average or better, Tovar should be able to remain a starter as long as he is able to stay within himself and pitch in the strike-zone.
Tovar will turn 18 during spring training next season. He is likely to spend the entire year in Arizona, pitching in extended spring training and then in the Arizona Rookie League. If things come together quickly for him, Tovar could make his New York-Penn League debut by the end of the 2016 season, although the A’s won’t rush him.