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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Dan Otero

Dan Otero was a pleasant surprise for the Indians in 2016 as he went from a career worst season in 2015 to one of the better years he's ever had. The question is can he continue that moving forward?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Dan Otero, RHP

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-32 season -- Contract: Avoided arbitration with a 1-year/$1.05 million deal (Free agent in 2020)

2016 In Review: Not much was thought of the Indians' purchasing Dan Otero from the Phillies during last offseason, but it didn't take long for him to establish himself as one of the key arms at the back of the Tribe bullpen. In 62 appearances, the veteran right-hander went 5-1 with a 1.53 ERA. Coming off a year where he went 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA with Oakland, Otero managed to rediscover the dominance he had in years prior with the A's where he went 10-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 105 combined outings between 2013 and 2014. Last season, however, the 31-year-old posted career bests in strikeouts (57), WHIP (0.906), strikeouts-per-nine-innings (7.3) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.70). By the end of the year, he was in the mix with one of the top groups of late-inning relievers in the game joining Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, thus giving the Indians the advantage of shortening games significantly and increasing their chances of winning if they had a lead by even just the fourth or fifth innings.

Versus Right-handers: Throughout most of his career, Otero has been about as balanced a pitcher as you can get regarding platoon splits with a career opposing batting average of .263 with an OPS of .646 against right-handed hitters and .268 and .674 marks against lefties, respectively. 2016 may have been the most even of all with a .223 average and .529 OPS against right-handers and .197 clip and .522 OPS versus southpaws. Otero has had better results against righties as far as walks given up, however, with only two free passes issued to them last year, giving him just 15 for his career.

Versus Left-handers: One of the elements of Otero's 2016 campaign that strayed from his normal career patterns was how few hits he had given up to left-handers as they batted just .197 against him in 117 at-bats. Before last season, the lowest average southpaws had against the Miami native was .269 back in 2013. On the other hand, even though Otero doesn't walk many batters in general, most of them have come when someone is batting from the left side with eight of 10 coming against lefties last year and 24 of his 39 career walks being issued to southpaws.

Pitch Mix: Otero features a five-pitch mix starting with his sinker, which he throws the majority of the time. After that, he'll go with a four-seamer, a changeup, a slider and the odd curveball. The right-hander has had a knack for getting batters to hit the ball on the ground throughout his time in the big leagues as he posted the second highest groundball percentage of his career in 2016 at 62.3%. He also had the second highest groundball-to-flyball ratio at 3.18, although the 6.00 mark from his rookie season in 2012 was over only a dozen appearances. He doesn't throw the ball hard only topping out in the low 90s, but he barely walks anyone and he rarely gives up home runs. Keeping hitters off balance and keeping the ball on the ground is the name of Otero's game and with the top flight infield defense that the Indians have behind him, there aren't many more ideal landing spots he could've found in the league.

Fantasy Impact: Understandably there's reason to have trepidations about whether Otero can replicate his performance from 2016 and odds are he probably won't. But that doesn't mean he can't still be effective or remain one of the Tribe's better relievers in 2017. Indeed, Steamer and Depth Charts both anticipate some decline from last season, but they still see him posting a decent ERA of 3.50 and a positive WAR of 0.5. One thing to keep in mind, however, is just what was mentioned earlier, Otero has a track record for success as far as limiting walks, home runs and keeping the ball on the ground and the Indians are in pretty good shape defensively around the diamond, particularly up the middle, so even if he isn't as dominant as last year, his teammates can still pick him up a bit if needed.

Summary: One of the general understandings in the game of baseball is that relievers can be very volatile from one year to the next, especially if they're not the elite-level closer-types like an Andrew Miller or Cody Allen. The Indians have been burned in recent years by guys who blew everyone away one year and struggled the next, as was the case with Scott Atchison and Jeff Manship. The question moving into 2017 concerning Dan Otero is will he be able to pick up where he left off last season or will he join the one-hit-wonder class? Again, his track record and skillset would tend to create more optimism, but of course we won't know until it actually plays out on the mound. If he can pull it off, however, Cleveland could once again be home to one of the most dynamic, lights-out bullpens in the majors for another season.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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