Otters make trades with Atlantic League teams

Otters make trades with Atlantic League teams
Evansville Otters' bullpen, a dominant force through 2019 season.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) -The Evansville Otters have made multiple trades to send pitcher Taylor Wright and infielder Ryan Long to the Somerset Patriots and send starting pitchers Austin Nicely and Jake Welch to the York Revolution of the Atlantic League.

The Otters will receive future considerations or players to be named later from the respective trades in return.

Featuring a 140-game regular season schedule, the Atlantic League’s regular season will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 22 with the postseason running into early October.

“The trades give these players who had great 2019 seasons for Evansville to go get more experience at a higher level and get more repetition at the plate or on the mound while they’re still in game shape,” Otters manager Andy McCauley said.

“Plus, the trades are to the Atlantic League which only has one-year contracts, so the hope is to bring these guys back in 2020 with that extra experience.”

Otters third baseman Ryan Long and closer Taylor Wright were traded to the Somerset Patriots.

In 2019 for the Otters, Long earned the Frontier League's Morgan Burkhart MVP award, the third Otters player to earn the award in the last six seasons, as he hit .285 to be top-10 in the Frontier League. He also had a league-leading 78 RBIs, the second-most in the franchise’s single-season history.

“Long made great strides to try not to do too much himself last season,” McCauley said. “His best weeks were when he took his walks and let others behind him drive in. It’s a maturity factor that comes with experience.”

Long posted a team-best 14 home runs, recorded 54 runs, and had 51 walks to go along with a second straight Frontier League All-Star selection in July. The Otters third baseman also was fourth in the league with 26 doubles, tied for fourth with four triples, had the third-best slugging percentage at .504, and had the fifth-best on-base percentage at .386.

“Long will face a higher level of pitching in the Atlantic League and will have to make quicker adjustments,” McCauley said. “Plus, I think it will help him recognize what he will need to work on for next season with the Otters or elsewhere.”

Wright went 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA, accumulated 56 strikeouts, and earned 18 saves in 48.2 innings pitched and 38 appearances in 2019 for the Otters. Wright’s 18 saves finished top-10 in the Otters’ record books.

Before his signing at the beginning of the season, Wright was recommended to McCauley and the Otters by a scout from the Atlantic League.

“Wright only needed opportunities, experience and confidence, which he probably wouldn’t have gotten in the Atlantic League to begin the season,” McCauley said. “Developing all three of those attributes in the Frontier League is what our league is all about.”

Wright earned his first Frontier League All-Star selection in 2019 and was the recipient of the Jason Simontacchi Rookie of the Year Award, the second Otter to win the award in the last three seasons.

Otters starting pitchers Austin Nicely and Jake Welch were traded to the York Revolution.

For the 2019 season, Nicely was 6-7 with a 4.32 ERA, striking out 66 batters in 91.2 innings pitched, 17 appearances and 16 starts.

“Nicely commanded the zone much better after his first few starts this season, especially the inside part of the plate,” McCauley said. “Once he started to pound the inside, all of his offspeed pitches became more dominant.”

After a slow start to the season, Nicely was solid on the mound from June to the end of the season. During that span, Nicely was one of the top pitchers in the Frontier League with a 2.23 ERA. He even pitched a nine-inning shutout on July 31 at Lake Erie, leading to a 6-0 Otters win.

“He is a true professional, working through his rough patch tirelessly and without excuses,” McCauley said. “He deserves to test his abilities in the Atlantic League.”

“Nicely and Tyler Vail both can be considered comeback players of the year because when we moved Patrick McGuff and Randy Wynne to affiliated baseball, they both responded. We don’t make the playoffs if not for those two rebounding their seasons.”

Welch also had a huge role in the starting rotation for the Otters in 2019. He found his niche in the rotation after being acquired in a trade with the Windy City Thunderbolts before the season. Welch went 8-5 with a 2.93 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched and 20 starts in 2019.

“Welch was very comfortable quickly in Evansville which helps to concentrate on tasks at hand,” McCauley said. “He is good friends with Wynne and Hunter Wood, who was here in Spring Training, which made it easy to assimilate.”

“Welch should learn at a higher level you need to commit to every pitch because there is less margin for error against higher-level hitters.”

Welch also made his way into the top-10 in Otters’ single-season history in games started (20), innings pitched (129.0), and second in strikeouts with 127, which was 11 shy of Andre Simpson’s 2005 mark of 138 strikeouts.

The Evansville Otters want to thank all fans, corporate partners, and staff for their support and help in making the Otters’ 25th anniversary season a success.

Courtesy: Evansville Otters

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