If the 2014 season is any indication, Dillon Overton’s first full season back from Tommy John surgery could be a special one. The left-hander was the Oakland A’s second overall pick in 2013, but he didn’t make his professional debut until June 2014. The delay was because Overton underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after signing with the A’s and spent the first year of his professional career rehabbing his elbow. Overton returned to the mound in June and put up spectacular numbers during his time with the A’s two short-season affiliates.
When the A’s selected Overton out of Oklahoma, they were taking a left-hander who was considered one of the more polished collegiate left-handed starters in the 2013 draft. Before the 2013 season started, Overton was a consensus first-round pick (some even thought he was a better prospect than OU teammate Jonathan Gray, who went third overall in 2013). Overton’s stock slipped some during the 2013 season because of inconsistency with the quality of his stuff and time missed due to a strained left forearm. As it turned out, those issues were precursors to his elbow injury.
Despite the inconsistency of his stuff, Overton still posted a 3.02 ERA and a .19 HR/9 during his junior year at OU. His K:BB was also a solid 3.43 (although it had been 5.25 as a sophomore). Before the injury, Overton featured a fastball that sat 89-93, as well as an above-average breaking ball and a solid change-up. He was also considered a fierce competitor on the mound.
Since making his pro debut in June in the Arizona Rookie League, Overton has looked every bit the part of a polished left-hander who could move quickly through the minor league ranks. His velocity hasn’t returned to the low-90s yet, but his secondary pitches have been as good as advertised and his command has been surprisingly sharp given how close he still is to his surgery date. His delivery was solid all season and he was able to pitch effectively with his fastball despite the diminished velocity because he was able to place it well to both sides of the plate.
Overton finished his pro debut season with 37 innings for the Rookie League A’s and the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. He posted a 1.95 ERA (and an 0.90 FIP) and allowed just 30 hits. He didn’t allow a homerun and he struck-out 53 and walked only four.
Our Vermont correspondent Donald Moore caught-up with Overton for a Q&A during the Lake Monsters’ final road trip of the season.
Donald Moore: How is everything going for you this season?
Dillon Overton: It's going pretty good so far. I mean, as everybody knows, we got maybe got a week or a couple days left to this season, but it's going good. I came here from Arizona. It's been a long year, but it's coming towards the end, and everything came together very well.
DM: What were your goals for you this year?
DO: Mainly just to get back on the mound. I was off the mound for six months, seven months [after his Tommy John surgery last year]. It was rough. It was a long wait and loving baseball like I do, it's a grind when you don't get to do the thing you love. And waiting to get on the mound was tough, but I hung in there, stayed tough and it all worked out.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a baseball player?
DO: I'd have to say my mental aspect towards the game. Playing at a big college like OU, you work on your mentality a lot. Big crowds, tough situations, coaches and just the environment, everything works with your mental toughness. I guess you can say that being in college helped me mature me a lot in that aspect of the game.
DM: What would you like to improve on?
DO: Right now, just getting the feel back for the mound, getting the feel back for all of my pitches. All of my pitches have been pretty good for the most part coming back, but the velocity is not quite there yet. But everything is coming back very well and I'm very pleased.
DM: How are you adjusting to professional baseball?
DO: Oh, it's not bad. I mean, it's completely different from college ball, but it's not too bad. It's fun.
DM: Any pregame routines?
DO: Not really. In college I used to just sit there and listen to my own music, not listening to the team's music because in pro ball, you have a lot of different music, but right now, not so much.
DM: What do you do like to do off the field?
DO: Hang out with the family and probably hunt.
DM: Favorite baseball team growing up?
DO: Was the St. Louis Cardinals.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
DO: My parents.
DM: Craziest thing you ever saw on a baseball diamond?
DO: That's tough question. I've been playing a long time, and I honestly don't know.
DM: Where do you see yourself in the future career with the Oakland A's organization?
DO: I've told everybody that individually I see myself hopefully in the big leagues within two years.
DM: Dillon, I really appreciate your time and the best of luck to you.
DO: Thank you very much.