Ian Oxnevad (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

20-year-old lefty Ian Oxnevad was Appalachian League title-winning Johnson City’s horse in 2016.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #32 with a big lefty who may be ready for full-season ball. Details for TCN members.


2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
35 LHS 10 03 96 2015 8th

Selected 2016 stats

JC 5 3 3.38 4.05 12 12 0 72 80 32 7 13 57 0.283 0.94 0.329

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (36): Ian Oxnevad began receiving backing from Cardinals27 at #27 in the community vote. Others in the community started to provide major support in the early 30’s from before Oxnevad came in at #36.

Just like last year, there was not a lot of discussion that took place during the community vote regarding Oxnevad. Mudville was the only one to mention him noting that he is a big, tall lefty that is another pitcher to watch in 2017. – Jeremy Byrd


Derek Shore (27): For his size, pitchability, and projectability, Oxnevad was selected in the eighth round of the 2015 draft and signed for the equivalent of third-round money ($500,000). This past summer, he caught the attention of pro scouts and the Cardinals player development with his raw tools, but backed it up with results.

"Ox is everything you look for in a projectable left-handed pitcher," Johnson City manager Chris Swauger said. "He's got the size and the clean delivery. It basically seems effortless when he's out there. Very repeatable stuff. Has advanced feel and command for his fastball and his changeup.

"You just don't see that type of strike-throwing ability. He's got average major-league stuff as far as his fastball and changeup go. He's 20-years old, goes out there and fills up the strike zone, and takes the ball every fifth day. He's flashed a good curveball, a good 12-6 curveball, but definitely a third pitch and work in progress.

"For being 20 and first year out of high school, he's everything you look for in a projectable left-handed starter."

Oxnevad was the Opening Day starter for Johnson City, leading the pitching staff in multiple categories during the season, including wins (5), innings pitched (72), starts (12) and strikeouts (57) while hurling the Appalachian League Cardinals to its fourth league title in seven years.

In addition, the strapping lefty recorded seven quality starts, a remarkable feat for a pitcher not only in his first summer as a professional, but one who has yet to reach full-season ball.

"He's got a unique ability to throw and repeat good strikes," Swauger said. "He's able to move the ball around and put it where it wants it. Everybody goes into a game with a game plan, but not everybody can execute it at that level. He was able to execute whatever game plan was that whether it was an inside pitch, outside pitch, changeup, and breaking ball.

"Whatever it was, he was able to go out and attack guys. He was very efficient with what he did, and it was just his ability to command the ball is what helped him."

Oxnevad repeats his delivery with a short arm action and a drop-and-drive like motion to the plate. He is deceptive, selling all his pitches with great arm speed and his stuff plays up thanks to the deception and command. He spots his pitches mostly on the knees, down with the ability to throw to both sides and elevate his heater up in the zone. He is said to have present above-average command.

He sits at 88-90, flashing 92 mph on his fastball. Oxnevad’s fastball is released from a downhill plane, featuring sink that gives him a weak groundball-inducing pitch. His change can flash average-to-above-average with a split-like action that messes with hitters timing while his curve can be above-average or better with superb depth and bite at 12-to-6.

Oxnevad used a slider as his primary breaking pitch as an amateur but has specialized on the curveball as a pro. I asked Swauger which one is the better potential offering.

"He focused this summer on throwing the curveball," Swauger replied. "Trying to get vertical, up-and-down movement, but really learning how to spin the baseball and get a feel for it. I didn't really see his slider very much. I wouldn't say he threw different variations of the breaking ball but depending on how it came out - sometimes it was a little bit shorter and quicker than a big breaker.

"It may have appeared to be a different pitch. We didn't put a lot of emphasis that it had to be a great pitch. He just needed to learn how to throw it and learn how to spin the baseball."

I feel Oxnevad will open his 2017 campaign in the rotation for Low-A Peoria.


Brian Walton (38): Given the level of performance mentioned above, it should not be surprising that Oxnevad was named The Cardinal Nation’s Johnson City Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2016. That moved him slightly in our overall Cardinals top prospect ranking from 35th last year to 32nd this winter.

Stepping up from his 18-year-old season in the Gulf Coast League in 2015, Oxnevad had his worst game in his debut, allowing five runs. From there, he figured out the Appalachian League quickly, as it took four more starts totaling 25 1/3 innings before he yielded his next five scores.

While tripling his innings pitched from 2015, Oxnevad slowed a bit in August. His ERA approached four at 3.82 and his strikeouts dropped in half - from 9.4 per nine innings to 4.6 per nine. Perhaps that is one reason he was not given a late-season shot at State College as his rotation mate Jordan Hicks was. With more experience, Oxnevad’s stamina should improve. I was also mildly concerned by a relatively high fly ball content and a FIP that was over four.

I would also hope with age that Oxnevad can find another few miles per hour on his fastball. When I last saw him pitch, it was in the 88-90 mph range, accompanied by a 74-76 mph curve.

Still, that August downturn was relative, as Oxnevad’s valleys were not deep. Swauger recognized that ace-quality value to his aspiring championship club.

“His best asset was that he was very consistent,” the manager said. “You knew exactly what you were going to get. He was going to get you into the sixth inning and the game was going to be close. The ability to do that at such a young age – guys don't pitch like that and guys are not able to maintain start to start like he was at his age. He was very, very impressive. He still has some things he has to develop, but the poise, maturity and all of that is there.

“His biggest contribution was that he was steady every time he took the ball. Guys recognize that. Position players know that. The bullpen knows it. Not to say they are going to get a day off, but ‘Ox is going to give us some mileage today’ and that is worth something,” Swauger said.

Oxnevad has a bright future, as the manager concluded.

“Man, he is a big kid and is projectable as can be!” he said.

I agree with Derek’s suggestion that Oxnevad should be ready to jump into the Peoria rotation next spring based on his performance, but whether or not it actually happens out of the gate far from a slam dunk. It is going to depend on how many others are also in the mix for full-season starting berths, with likely priority going to a pair of top 2016 college draftees in Zac Gallen and Connor Jones. Hicks seems ahead of Oxnevad, as well. The prospective Palm Beach rotation also looks very crowded, potentially blocking a promotion or two from the 2016 Chiefs rotation.

Assuming Oxnevad makes Peoria at some point in 2017, he would be reunited with Swauger, named the Chiefs’ new manager earlier this week.  

TCN Scouting Grade: 4.5, Risk: Extreme (click here to review scales)


Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

© 2016 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories