Ian Oxnevad, the St. Louis Cardinals’ 8th round draft choice out of Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Washington, passed on a scholarship offer to pitch at Oregon State University when signing a professional contract for $500,000. That was $332,600 above his projected slot value at pick 251 overall and the fifth-highest Cardinals bonus in the 2015 draft, virtually third-round money.
Oxnevad, one of the Pacific Northwest's top pitching prospects, dominated in his senior season, pitching a 0.69 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. The lefty consistently fires with a low 90s fastball, has touched as high as 93 according to him, and scouts see his projectable frame and stuff developing into a starter of some capacity at a chance of mid-rotation with a successful rise to the big-leagues.
Oxnevad did not make his professional debut until July 7th for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and pitched quite well in limited action despite strict workload constraints on draft picks who pitched in high school or college during the spring. Standing at an impressive 6-foot-4, he had a 2.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 26 innings of work.
In the following exclusive interview. Oxnevad discusses if he had a preference of an organization prior to the draft, the post-draft negotiation process, the Cardinals’ reputation as a pitching factory and more.
Derek Shore: While you were a high school standout projected as a relatively high round pick. Did you have a preference as to which organization you would start with as a professional?
Ian Oxnevad: "No, not really. I was all for whichever team wanted me and put everything into it. Obviously being picked by the Cardinals, it couldn't have worked out better for me. I knew the Northwest scout pretty well. I knew he was pretty interested and it just all happened to work out. I'm really excited about it."
DS: What was the negotiation process like which led to you receiving a six-figure bonus with the Cardinals?
IO: "It was just about me getting down there and playing, to be honest. There wasn't much negotiation. School can always happen and school can always wait. I just wanted to get down there playing and start my career."
DS: Did the Cardinals’ reputation with pitchers make your decision easier to forego a scholarship with Oregon State?
IO: "Absolutely, it had to be the right organization. It wouldn't have been just any team, but the Cardinals develop their pitchers and obviously it shows at the big-league level. They don't trade a lot of guys, they don't acquire a lot of guys, and their starters come from the minors. That was really impressive to me."
DS: In August, you told The Cardinal Nation's GCL Cardinals reporter Paul Ivice that you were working on the command of your fastball and location of your pitches. How much progress did you make with your command from your debut to your final start?
IO: "I know my first two starts, I was anxious and I was kind of just throwing the ball. I wasn't really pitching; I was just trying to impress the coaches, and that's not how you go about doing it. I rarely walked guys in high school. I just had to calm down and relax to do what I can do. It was a slow start for me, but I think throughout the season I worked things out and got better."
DS: From your perspective on the mound, what has been the biggest adjustment from amateur baseball?
IO: "The biggest adjustment for me is one-through-nine; all those guys can hit and in high school there's maybe one or two guys who are the best hitters on the team. Every lineup it seemed had a solid lineup; all those guys could hit and they are there for a reason. So it was just learning how to pitch to everyone."
DS: You also mentioned you can't get away with pure velocity and breaking pitches, you need that equalizer to throw off a batter's timing…
IO: "In high school, I would just throw fastball/curveball/slider and now I've had to mix it up. The change-up was a huge pitch for me this year, and I'm looking forward to developing it in the coming years to see how it turns out for me."
DS: What improvements do your breaking pitches need to be effective?
IO: "In high school, I threw a curveball and slider, in the GCL I have thrown only a curveball just to focus on that one. We'll see what they want to do with my slider in spring training. I'm a fan of the slider. I found it useful in high school, and I think that having two pitches that go different directions is big. "
DS: Off the field, what do you do in your downtime when baseball wasn't a priority in Jupiter, Florida?
IO: "Mainly just hung out in the hotel room. A few teammates and I just hang out and we had an Xbox to pass the time. It was laid-back once we got back from the field because we’re all pretty exhausted from the day. So we just took it easy and got ready for the next day."
DS: Do you have any goals for this offseason and into spring training?
IO: "I want to put on muscle, get kind of built up a little bit - not too much - just to tone things out. Hopefully I’ll get my velocity up. Velocity isn't the biggest thing obviously, but it helps."
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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