Name: Layonel Ovalles
Weight: 215 lbs.
Acquired: IFA, November 20, 2019 (Moca, Dominican Republic)
2022 Stats: 16 G (4 GS), 46.2 IP, 41 H, 27 R, 21 ER (4.05 ERA), 17 BB, 66 K, .229 BABIP (Rookie/Low-A)
Layonel Ovalles was born in Moca, the Dominican Republic’s tenth largest city and signed with the Mets in November 2019. His professional debut should have come in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic prompted the season to be cancelled. One year later, Ovalles finally made his professional debut, assigned to the Dominican Summer League. Playing for both Mets DSL squads, the 18-year-old right-hander posted a 2.83 ERA in 35.0 innings, allowing 16 hits, walking 8, and striking out 34. He was sent stateside in 2022, playing for the FCL Mets from the beginning of June until the beginning of August and then was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets for the last month of the season. In the Florida Complex League, the right-hander posted a 2.76 ERA in 29.1 innings, allowing 26 hits, walking 5, and striking out 44. In the Florida State League, he posted a 6.23 ERA in 17.1 innings, allowing 15 hits, walking 12, and striking out 22. All in all, Ovalles posted a 4.05 ERA in 46.2 innings, allowing 41 hits, walking 17, and striking out 66.
Ovalles is a well-built and well-proportioned, standing 6’3” and weighing 215-pounds. He seems unlikely to put on much more weight, but even without additional muscle mass, he has shown the ability to throw multiple innings while maintaining his velocity and effectiveness. The right-hander throws from a high-three-quarter arm slot with a short arm action through the back, an adjustment the organization recommended as compared to his amateur days when he utilized a long arm circle.
His fastball averaged 94 MPH during his time in St. Lucie, sitting in the upper-80s-to-mid-90s, 88 to 95 MPH. The pitch averaged a high spin rate for a four-seam fastball, 2535 RPM. With that combination of velocity and spin rate, it is no wonder that the pitch gets a number of swings and misses. In addition to his fastball, the right-hander has a variety of other pitches he utilizes, primarily a changeup and curveball though he occasionally mixes in a slider as well. He is able to throw all for strikes and while his control is not pinpoint, he is able to hit all four quadrants of the zone purposefully.
His changeup sits in the low-to-high-80s, averaging 84 MPH and ranging 80-87 MPH. It is used moreso against left-handed batters than right-handed batters, but he utilizes it against batters of both handedness and throws it mainly down and away to both. The pitch consistently gets swings-and-misses from both and is his main strikeout pitch.
The curveball sits in the mid-70s-to-low-80s, ranging 76 to 83 MPH, averaging 80 MPH. It features between 2375 to 2800 RPM of spin, averaging 2570 RPM and between 47-51 inches of vertical drop and 5-15 inches of horizontal movement. The slider sits in the low-80s, ranging 81 to 85 MPH and averaging 83 MPH. The pitch featured spin rates between 2180 and 2700, averaging 2500, giving it slightly above-average spin on average and flashing above-average rates. The pitch features between 40-47 inches of vertical drop and 3-12 inches of horizontal movement but not have sharp bite and batters have been able to square up on it. The pitch has been used almost exclusively down and to his arm side, to both left and right-handed batters.
On paper, Layonel Ovalles might not seem like much. Nothing particularly stood out to me until I started compiling his Statcast data. A fastball with above-average velocity and a truly elite spin rate? A slider and curve, also with massive spin rates? Sign me up! He had problems with the strike zone after leaving the complex and getting bumped up to St. Lucie, so here’s hoping he is able to harness that stuff going forward.
Ovalles started his season with some impressive multi-inning relief outings in the complex before scuffling after a late-season promotion to Single-A. Some of the Statcast data we can publicly access for St. Lucie suggests he has a high-spin fastball with solid velocity. His two breaking balls tend to bleed together, though that’s a bit of a disproven scouting pejorative in some instances. There’s enough here that you can see a pitcher with nice upside here, and that means something in this system.
After starting the season in the Complex, Ovalles quickly pitched his way into a promotion to St. Lucie. He struggled a bit while adjusting to the higher level of competition, particularly with regards to his control of the strike zone. He walked 6.23 batters per nine innings, and he will have to reign this in significantly moving forward. But, Ovalles is still very young and has plenty of time refine and develop his command.