The Yankees focused their efforts on pitching during the 2017 draft, selecting 10 pitchers with their first 11 picks. Among the haul of arms entering the system was right-handed pitcher Glenn Otto from Rice University. The Yankees believed that the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Otto had the build and potential to work as a starter in the professional ranks. From the beginning, the Yankees pitched Otto on a starter’s schedule and began the process of adding to his arsenal in order to make him a viable starting pitching prospect.
Injuries slowed Otto’s progress almost immediately, as his first full professional season was cut short due to a blood clot in his shoulder. After returning in 2019 two more trips to the injured list in limited his time and development on the mound. Around those injuries and the lost 2020 season, he has thrown just 115.2 official innings since signing with the Yankees. Still, scouts see an arm with major league potential. This coming year, the Yankees will likely make the choice to continue developing Otto as a starter or move him back to his college role in the bullpen.
2019 Stats (High-A Tampa) 56.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 10.86 K/9, 5.27 BB/9, 8.6 H/9
2019 Stats (Arizona Fall League) 24 IP, 1.88 ERA, 0.958 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 3.8 H/9
Prospect Ranking (Yankees System): 28 (MLB.com), 37 (FanGraphs), N/A (Baseball America)
While working as a reliever for Rice University, Otto used a two-pitch mix very effectively. He paired a fastball that touched 96 mph with a 12-to-6 curveball that flashed the potential to be an above-average pitch.
Since turning pro, his fastball has touched 98 mph, and it has the spin rate and other characteristics that make the pitch more effective than just its raw velocity. The curveball has continued to flash its potential, being described as a “hammer” in some scouting reports, but also flagged as being inconsistent at times.
The Yankees attempted to introduce a changeup to Otto’s mix once he signed. Scouts do not love the pitch and he has struggled to make it into a quality part of his pitch mix. Despite his struggles developing an quality third pitch, Otto has been effective on the mound to this point in his career. In 91.2 minor league innings, he has a 2.85 ERA and pitched well during his 2019 assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
The glaring concern with Otto is his career 4.7 BB/9 rate. It is the main reason multiple scouting reports think that he will soon be heading to a bullpen role, where his velocity can play-up in short outings and he can potentially refine his control with a focus on fewer pitches.
The Yankees did not bring Otto to the alternate training site in 2020, or protect him from the Rule-5 draft during his first year of eligibility. While two of his fellow 2017 draftees were plucked from the system during the Rule-5 draft, he was passed over and now has a chance to put himself into position to contribute with the Yankees.
Otto participated in spring training, allowing just one baserunner in 2.1 innings pitched. From that performance, and what he displayed behind the scenes to the Yankees pitching coordinators, they decided to bring him to the 2021 alternate training site where he is currently training.
Many minor league pitchers have talked about adding velocity or new pitches during their full season on the sideline. It would not be surprising if Otto emerged from the lost 2020 season with a pitch that is not currently listed on his scouting reports.
He is a strong candidate to start the season with Double-A Somerset but could be in the mix for a role with Triple-A Scranton, especially if he is working only as a reliever. One of the biggest keys for Otto will be for him to stay healthy for the entire year. No matter if he is starting or relieving, Otto needs to be available for the Yankees this year. Beyond that, he also needs to improve on his control, as he will quickly find himself in trouble against upper-level hitters if he continues to walk a hitter every other inning as he has over the span of his pro career.
Glenn Otto has the potential to contribute to the Yankees as soon as this season with a healthy and effective campaign. The right-hander has a lot of experience from college working out of the bullpen, and two potential plus pitches that give him the tools to work as a reliever. Through his work at the alternate training site, he is closing in on the majors but will have to prove that he can perform over a full season if he wants to force himself into the Yankees’ future plans.