Rangers righty Otto thriving closer to home
As the Trade Deadline approached in late July, then-Yankees prospect Glenn Otto knew something could go down at any moment. Otto was in the rotation for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while the team was on a road trip in Syracuse. It wasn’t his day on the mound, so he was bouncing back
As the Trade Deadline approached in late July, then-Yankees prospect Glenn Otto knew something could go down at any moment.
Otto was in the rotation for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while the team was on a road trip in Syracuse. It wasn’t his day on the mound, so he was bouncing back and forth between the dugout and clubhouse, checking the latest news around baseball on Twitter, especially the whispers involving his parent club and Rangers All-Star slugger Joey Gallo.
“I tried as hard as I could not to pay attention too much to that stuff, but I'm human and it's hard not to at times,” Otto said in a phone interview last month.
Knowing the Yankees could be looking for a big lefty bat, the news finally broke: “Yankees acquire Gallo” read the first tweet he was shown. As details began to emerge, Otto, who was drafted by New York in the fifth round in 2017, admitted there was some part of him that was hoping to see his name as part of the deal.
After all, the Spring, Texas, native would be going a lot closer to his wife, Gabrielle, and their dog, Skye, his family and his home outside the Houston area.
When the final list of Yankees prospects headed to Texas was announced, Otto wasn't in the RailRiders’ clubhouse, but his teammates and coaches noticed a lot of activity from his phone in his locker.
“Got a call from my agent and called my wife,” Otto recalled. “It all happened so fast, one day you're with the guys that you've been growing with the last four years, and the next day, you're meeting a whole new team and a whole new organization.”
The 25-year-old right-hander was part of a package -- which included infielders Josh H. Smith, Ezequiel Duran and Trevor Hauver -- that went to Texas in exchange for Gallo and left-hander Joely Rodriguez. Otto, now the Rangers’ No. 24 prospect, was assigned to Triple-A Round Rock, while Smith (No. 6), Duran (No. 7) and Hauver (No. 13) each were ticketed for High-A Hickory.
Otto’s time in Round Rock lasted just four starts before he was called up for his big-league debut on Aug. 27. That scoreless, five-inning, seven-punchout start against his hometown Astros resembled the dominance he displayed in his last two starts with the Express.
The Rice University product posted back-to-back one-hit performances, going six innings in each start. He earned Triple-A West Player of the Week honors after his Aug. 14 start against Oklahoma City -- one of the more difficult lineups to navigate in the Minors -- during which he struck out six and allowed just one baserunner.
“It's always fun to get to face those lineups because you get to see how your stuff plays,” Otto said. “I was in a lot of good counts where I didn't have to pitch from behind very often. That tends to make things a lot easier in this game.”
Across three teams, two levels and two organizations, Otto, who opened the season with Double-A Somerset, posted a 3.20 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings in the Minors. But it doesn’t seem like he’ll be back from the Majors anytime soon. Otto is in line to make his third start with the Rangers against Oakland on Friday.
The numbers have been right around that mark for Otto throughout his Minors career. But he worked on two things in 2020 that allowed him to take a big leap forward.
Like almost every other pitcher in the game at any level, it all started with his fastball command. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Otto said this season he’s spotting his 60-grade heater -- which sits in the low to mid-90s -- much better than he has in his career. That command has allowed him to better pitch to individual scouting reports and be less predictable in his sequencing.
Glenn Otto was dealing in his MLB debut 👀— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 28, 2021
7 K 🔥 pic.twitter.com/pyBzWG1ozf
The other product of the extended offseason was the addition of a slider to his repertoire. Otto, who until this season threw a fastball, a plus curveball and a changeup, said the idea had been kicked around for the past couple seasons in the Yankees’ system, but he found the time to figure it out in 2020 and polished the offering in Spring Training. Since then, it’s been the fourth weapon that Otto feels all starters need.
“Four pitches is really the minimum [for a starter] in my mind. The more the hitters have to think about and respect, the harder their job gets,” Otto said. “I still use the curveball because I love that pitch, and that's something I've always thrown really well. ... Keeping the curveball where it's at, and balancing it out with the slider and using them with each other is something I'm still working on.”
Going from the Yankees to the Rangers, a team in more of a rebuild mode, will provide ample opportunity for Otto to show he can stick in that rotation long-term.
“Obviously, that's why you do these things. That's why you trade your best players -- so you get good ones that are young and that you know you're going to have for a while,” Texas manager Chris Woodward told MLB.com after Otto’s first big-league start. “It’s exciting. I want to fast-forward a couple years to see where these guys are at, because a lot of these guys are gonna mature pretty quickly. It is encouraging when they come up here and they have an outing like that. Hopefully, there’s more to come this year.”
A little more than a month since the Deadline, Otto seems to be one of the better prospect acquisitions this season.
Should he stick with the Rangers, he wouldn’t quite be in his hometown, but it is still an easier trip.
“It’s a lot better than getting on a flight … for my family members and all that,” Otto said. “A two-and-a-half hour drive? I’ll take it.”
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.