Johan Oviedo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Johan Oviedo, St. Louis’ top international pitching signee in 2016, seems to have the material for future greatness.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #18 with a very promising young Cuban pitcher, who signed in July for $1.9 million. Details for TCN members.

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
NA RHS 03 02 98 2016 IFA

Selected 2016 stats

DSL 0 1 1.66 1.26 7 7 0 21.2 19 8 0 6 29 0.238 1.62 0.359

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (24): Johan Oviedo did not generate a lot of traction during the community vote, landing at #24, compared to #18 here. SoonerinNC was the first to pick him, as his 21st best prospect in the system.

During the vote, I mentioned that I had Oviedo in my personal top 20, but hadn’t gotten to him yet as there were others in front of him. I commented that Oviedo seemed to have a spring training like debut as they limited his innings to roughly three an outing. Oviedo also displayed fantastic control for someone that can touch 98 MPH with his fastball and received a bonus in line with a late first round draft pick. Mudville also brought up that the scouts first and now the coaches love this guy. With a big, strong pitcher’s body, Mudville believes Oviedo could be a top of the rotation starter one day. – Jeremy Byrd


Derek Shore (12): As many high-octane Cuban arms have entered the professional ranks over the last decade, the Cardinals were barren in that department until this past July 2.

Meet St. Louis' most prized Cuban pitching acquisition Johan Oviedo, 18, standing at a jaw-dropping 6-foot-6, 220-pounds while hurling from the right-side of the rubber.

Oviedo was a relatively unknown product to observers outside of his native Havana, Cuba, not ranked by either or Baseball America, but he still garnered a hefty bonus of $1.9 million to sign with the Cardinals.

Being more advanced than most Dominican Summer League prospects, Oviedo's acclimation to pro ball was quick, as he posted exceptional results through seven starts. Among DSL Cardinals starting pitchers, he led the way in ERA (1.66), K/9 (12.0), and K/BB ratio (4.88), second in WHIP (1.15) and third in BB/9 (2.5).

Thus, Oviedo was recognized as TCN's 2016 DSL Cardinals Starter of the Year.

The Cuban right-hander is said to sit 94-96 mph on his fastball, touching as high as 98 with life. He has the necessary build and frame to be a frontline starter, flashing a good curveball with quality spin, but other reports on his secondary stuff come back as inconsistent and with erratic strike-throwing ability.

That said, one scout told me Oviedo has plus makeup, a potential plus curve, and improved his feel of the strike zone over the summer.

As the international scout put it, "Dude can seriously bring it. Mid 90s fastball with potential plus curve. He looks like a guy that would be a Cardinals pitcher to me. Big, durable guy with three above-average pitches."

I asked if he will he be ready to jump stateside at 19 years old next spring.

"Yeah, most likely," the scout said. "Low-A to start, in my opinion. He's real big. That was one of the best signings, I'd say. Forgot how big this dude is and already throwing that hard and is that good with a three-pitch mix."

Ultimately, I could see Oviedo making the leap to Low-A ball to start his first full season of pro ball in the U.S. It is now time see what he is made of stateside in 2017.


Brian Walton (21): For the second day in a row, we have the Cardinals’ highest-bonused international pitcher of the year. First it was Alvaro Seijas (2015) and now Oviedo (2016).

I have written over 30 of these top prospect capsules so far and I have admit that this is first player I am exceptionally excited about. That isn’t to say the others are not good players and prospects, but I think this Cuban could become someone very special.

Since he signed in July and pitched in the Dominican Summer League, all I had was stat sheets until instructional league camp this fall. I came away wowed. Physically, Oviedo looks to have it all.

Despite being just 18 years of age, Oviedo is a MAN. The tallest player in the TCN top 50 is one inch taller and five pounds lighter than Austin Gomber, and lacks the farm-boy bulk. He is two inches taller than fireballer Sandy Alcantara and outweighs the string bean by a full 40 pounds. Oviedo even has three inches and 25 pounds of advantage on top prospect Alex Reyes - without Reyes’ hint of youthful chubbiness.

OK, Oviedo looks the part, but in scouting and signing him, the Cardinals had a lot more to go on than that. Director of international operations Moises Rodriguez, who leads all of the organization’s Latin American activities, comments.

“We really liked him as we conducted our evaluations throughout the spring,” Rodriguez recalled. “We feel he could be a starter. 92 to 94 on his fastball with some late cut and he gives lefties a difficult time squaring up. Flashes two different breaking balls and just has a lot of upside. He has a lot of promise and we are excited about seeing him for years to come.”

So, Oviedo has the look and the arsenal, but isn’t yet near the triple digits with the heater that Alcantara and Reyes have shown. Though Rodriguez may have been conservative in his assessment and there is still plenty time to improve, where Oviedo is today is probably the only reason my not ranking him close to Derek’s #12 – and I could easily be wrong - especially if he is already touching 98 at 18 years old.

There is more to prospect development than just pitching, however. Perhaps more so than any other player among the roughly 40 at instructional league camp this fall, the crash course in orientation to all things USA for this high-potential youngster was crucial. For example, at this point, his English is worse than my Spanish, which says something! There is not going to be a lot of time, as it is expected that his career accelerator pedal will soon get pushed to the floor.

With a unique talent like Oviedo, the immediate question is where to place him to open 2017. There are not many pitchers in organization history to look at as a comp.

Reyes never pitched in the Dominican academy. He opened at Johnson City as a rookie and leaped to Peoria the next spring. To find a true comparable case, we have to go back six years to 2011. That year, a youngster named Carlos Martinez, who had led the DSL in ERA as a first-year professional in 2010, made the jump to the Midwest League.

That is some pretty elite company.

Rodriguez did not answer this question directly, nor did I expect he would, but you can tell that the organization has very high hopes for Oviedo in the spring.

“We project him to play in the United States next year,” Rodriguez said. “The level remains to be seen. Health, performance and the acclimation period a lot of our players need to go through when they get to the US play a large role in where they end up starting the following year. Hopefully, it will be higher, rather than lower levels.”

Those higher levels may not be too far away.

TCN Scouting Grade: 7, Risk: Extreme (click here to review scales)

If you are following along at home, you may notice that Oviedo is the first player in this top 40 to receive a seven, or All-Star, ceiling. I don’t issue them very often. However, the extreme risk recognizes the fact that he has yet to throw a single official pitch on an American field. That risk level should be dropping very soon.

When other prospect-watchers, both local and national, "discover" Oviedo in 2017, remember that you read about him here first!


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!

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