Today’s random prospect has been around for a long time, even though he is just now getting time above the rookie level. Born in Panama on June 3rd, 1992, Andy Otero was born on a day where Curt Schilling out-pitched John Smoltz in Atlanta. Otero was probably not all that concerned with that, though. Otero is in the same mold as other undersized pitchers the Braves have, though Otero is a lefty. He was considered an amazing athlete when the Braves brought him into the organization.
Signed ahead of the 2009 season, Otero was outstanding in the Dominican Summer League. Playing with other current prospects like Williams Perez and Elmer Reyes, Otero outclassed them all with a 0.83 ERA in 64 innings. He added a 1.00 WHIP and a ridiculous 93 K’s. You could have found Otero’s name as one of the big sleeper prospects heading into 2010, but after being forced into Tommy John surgery, he missed nearly all of 2010-11 save for 11 innings at the end of 2011. Further elbow issues limited him to just three innings in 2012.
This is similar to Benino Pruneda, a young reliever who suffered injuries that killed his entire 2012-13 seasons. Otero had the potential, but injuries have derailed much more heralded pitchers before.
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Finally healthy, Otero transitioned to the bullpen last season. He returned to the Gulf Coast League, where he had languished through injuries and rehab, and after nine games there and a 0.94 WHIP, he finished with six games in Danville. Overall, between the two levels, he showed the skills that had caught everyone’s eye in 2009. In 31.2 ING, he allowed just one homer, walked a half-dozen, and struck out 37. The left-hander might not be able to recapture the potential that was attached to him because he was also a starter, but success is success no matter if you start or relieve.
This season, he missed about the first month of action before joining Rome for his first game above rookie-ball on May 9th. The results have been far more uneven than his previous success. In 34.1 ING, he has allowed three homers, walked 13, and has been saddled with a 1.63 WHIP. The strikeouts are still pretty solid (9.7 K/9), but the production has not been there. In his last two outings, he has picked up 9 K’s in 5.1 ING and generally has been used in outings where he can get multiple inning performances. But when he’s bad, he’s been really bad. Four runs in 0.2 ING on July 5th. Five runs in 2 ING on June 12th. While he has not been particularly good against either side of the split, lefties have especially bashed him around, which is surprising. However, a .412 BABIP does suggest some level of bad luck.
Overall, the Braves have to be just happy he’s been pretty healthy. He doesn’t possess some of the velocity we’ve grown to expect from Braves relievers and relies on his curve and change-up to be effective. His groundball rate that I’ve seen also suggests he probably gets a good deal of natural sink. If he can locate better, he’s a talented sleeper who could follow the Carlos Perez mold of a guy who languished for a few years before finding some success. My hope is that Otero finds that success as a starter considering that his skill set probably profiles best as a starter, but like I said…success is success regardless of your classification.