TCN 2016 Cardinals Prospect #40: David Oca

There is some optimism about a crafty, undersized 20-year-old lefty who spent most of the 2015 season in the Gulf Coast League.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

Hometown: Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR LHS 07,04,95 5-10 165 L L 2012 FA

Selected 2015 stats

SC 1 0 0.00 2.32 1 0 0 3.1 1 0 0 0 2 0.091 7.00 0.111
DSL 2 1 0.90 1.62 4 4 0 20.0 15 2 0 5 26 0.205 2.67 0.313
GCL 7 1 1.70 2.40 11 7 0 63.2 56 12 1 13 55 0.242 1.98 0.306
Tot 10 2 1.45   16 11 0 87 72 14 1 18 83 0.229 2.19  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (43): David Oca began getting some community votes from the likes of freshjmm and BobReed in the mid 30’s. It took until the mid 40’s before the rest of the community caught on, as he was voted the #43 prospect in our community rankings.

Many of the comments dealt with his smaller stature, but they were immediately evened out by those pointing out his equally impressive stat line. Desmetlax12 had a fantastic post about Oca, suggesting that it would not be a stretch for him to make the jump to full season ball next year.

In addition, he mentioned how Oca went deep into ballgames, which is impressive for such a young player. Another desmetlax12 point was that 2015 was the third year in a row that Oca has had some success in the Cardinals organization. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (35): 2015 was a breakthrough season and a whirlwind year for Oca. It all started in 2014 when Oca took home the top Dominican Summer League pitching honor from The Cardinal Nation. He returned to the Academy briefly in 2015 for four shutdown outings (0.90 ERA in 20 IP for DSL Cardinals) before settling in stateside.

Oca showed no ill effects in the move and flourished immediately on U.S. soil. The lefty was named TCN's Gulf Coast League Cardinals top pitcher from a roster with higher-profile names and capped his season by debuting with the Class-A Short-Season State College Spikes.

As a sub 6-foot-0 hurler who is more crafty than having overpowering stuff, Oca does not leave an impression of a starting pitcher so his long-term future will hinge on how far his advanced pitchability, competitiveness, and feel for his secondary pitches can take him in his rise through the pipeline.

However, he has proven to the Cardinals international and US development staff that he can develop, improve and perform at a high-level in an institutionalized setting against 17 and 18 years old hitters. To keep progressing forward, however, that will need to continue against advanced hitters with an ability to work counts and have effective secondary stuff.

With that said, it might be far-fetched, but I'd much like the Cardinals to challenge Oca in 2016 with an opening assignment to Midwest League with a more realistic plan of extended spring training and one of Johnson City or State College as the likelier destination.

Brian Walton (NR): Oca offers a great story of perseverance and effectiveness, however that does not make the 20-year-old a legitimate Major League prospect, in my opinion.

This fall, Cardinals director of international operations Moises Rodriguez, who has seen more of Oca than most anyone, shared with me his view of the lefty.

“Oca is one of those internal favorites,” Rodriguez said. “He is one of those guys who pitches between 88 and 91. Not the tallest kid in the world, but he is a lefty who moves the ball. Pitches inside, outside, up and down, mixes speeds. 88 to 91 from a lefty is not too shabby. Just a fun competitor. A kid that gets after it and has really put together an outstanding season in the GCL after contributing for a month down in the Dominican.”

Like I said, nice story. However, let’s make an extreme comparison to point out the magnitude of the challenge ahead.

The Cardinals’ top prospect, Alex Reyes, is just 10 months older than Oca. With standout stuff that Oca can only dream of, Reyes has already shown success at Double-A and in the Arizona Fall League and should be knocking on the door to the Majors once he is off his suspension.

On the other hand, Oca began 2015 in the Dominican and spent most of the season at the lowest level of rookie ball here in the US. Though he could jump over Johnson City in 2016, that is the level at which Reyes pitched way back in 2013.

Even if the crafty lefty can move as fast as Reyes going forward - which seems highly unlikely - he would reach Double-A in between two and three years from now. Maybe at that point, he could put himself in the left-handed relief pitching conversation for St. Louis, but there is an awful lot of ground between here and there.

I sense the odds of Oca eventually becoming a six-year minor league free agent are better than his chances of one day contributing in St. Louis. Given all this – his age, size, lack of standout stuff, likely relief role and current distance from the Majors - I chose to rank others ahead of him.

Our 2016 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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