Name: Oscar Tovar
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 175
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent in 2014.
One of the most promising arms in the Oakland A’s system, Oscar Tovar has both exceeded and fallen shy of expectations over the past two seasons. What does the future hold for the hard-throwing right-hander?
Tovar signed with the A’s as a 16-year-old during the 2014 international amateur free agent signing period, and he made his professional debut in 2015 with the Dominican Summer League A’s. Since then, Tovar has moved up a level a year, pitching for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters in 2017.
Only 19, Tovar has produced mixed results during his three seasons as a pro. In 163.1 innings, Tovar has a solid 3.20 ERA. He has allowed only four home runs and he has a 1.58 GO/AO. On the other hand, Tovar has struck-out only 102 – a surprisingly low number for a pitcher of his talent – while walking 65.
In 2017, Tovar spent the first half of the regular season at Extended Spring Training before being assigned to the Lake Monsters in June. He spent the rest of the year in the New York-Penn League as part of the Lake Monsters’ hybrid rotation. At 19, Tovar was two years younger than the league average. He held his own in many respects, posting a 3.46 ERA in 65 innings. Opposing batters hit .242 against him. He had a 51% groundball rate, but he also had a mediocre 45:26 K:BB.
Consistency was a big issue for Tovar. At times he looked very ordinary, but in other outings, Tovar was electric. He would sometimes pitch as if he was holding something back. That continued into the A’s fall Instructional League, where he had an uneven performance.
There is no question that Tovar is one of the most talented arms in the A’s system. He has an easy mid-90s fastball that can touch 96, as well as a swing-and-miss breaking ball that is sometimes called a cutter and sometimes called a slider. Tovar’s change-up can also be effective at times. A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson believes in Tovar’s talent but wonders whether he may end up being best suited in a bullpen role.
“Sometimes you hate to have a young pitcher penciled into a bullpen role, but if the other way is not really working, when is the time to make that move?” Patterson said in a post-Instructional League interview. “His arm is too good to struggle. He can sink it. He has a good change-up. Sometimes he has a great cutter. It’s a matter of confidence and consistency, which is often the case with young guys. He needs to be able to put it together on a consistent basis.”
At 6’1’’, 175-pounds, Tovar has the build to be a starter. He has a simple, over-the-top delivery and a quick arm that produces easy velocity. Tovar has added strength to his lower half since coming to the United States before the 2016 season.
Tovar is on track to reach full-season ball (Low-A Midwest League) in his age-20 season. The A’s may keep him in a starter’s role for another year to see if he can develop more consistency. If he can’t and he has to move to a relief role, Tovar’s progress through the A’s system may accelerate.
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