Name: Dillon Overton
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 175
How Acquired: Selected in the second round by the A’s in 2013
The Oakland A’s had to wait more than a year to see their 2013 second overall pick take the field in a regular season game. Dillon Overton proved well worth the wait in his pro debut season.
Despite a standout high school career in Weatherford, Oklahoma, Overton went undrafted coming out of high school. He stayed close to home in college, pitching for the University of Oklahoma. It didn’t take long for Overton to establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the Big 12. Splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation, Overton earned the Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman of the Year award after posting a 2.30 ERA in 74.1 innings.
Overton followed up that season with a standout sophomore campaign. In 122.2 innings, Overton had a 3.15 ERA and a 126:24 K:BB. He was named All-Big 12 honorable mention and finished second in the conference in strike-outs. Overton continued to pitch well during the Sooners’ post-season run, earning a spot on the Charlottesville All-Regional team. The Sooners made the CWS Super Regionals and finished #14 in the country.
Going into the 2013 season, Overton was considered the Oklahoma ace, even ahead of eventual number three overall pick Jonathan Gray. Overton had an up-and-down 2013 season, however. He actually finished the year with a lower ERA (3.02 compared to 3.15 in 2012), but his strike-out rate fell considerably, his walk rate rose and he missed several starts with forearm soreness.
Questions about Overton’s health caused him to drop out of the first round and into the second, where the A’s were happy to select him with the 63rd overall pick. Although the A’s front office insisted that Overton was healthy during post-draft interviews, when the news came out a few weeks later that he would need Tommy John surgery, it didn’t catch anyone by surprise given the issues Overton had had with his forearm during the regular season. The A’s signed Overton to an under-slot deal and he had surgery shortly after joining the organization.
"[Overton]’s a smooth left-handed pitcher, a good competitor. He throws strikes." - Oakland A's bullpen coach Scott Emerson
Overton’s rehab went well and he returned to the mound in a regular season game more than a year after the draft on June 23rd with the Arizona Rookie League A’s. He threw three innings in his pro debut, allowing a run on two hits with no walks and four strike-outs. That outing was the first of 12 he would make for the A’s two short-season clubs in 2014. All but one were three-innings in length. He had one four-inning outing in the mix. Although still working off the rust from his time rehabbing, Overton was brilliant in his 12 outings. In 37 innings, he had a 1.95 ERA and a remarkable 53:4 K:BB. He allowed just 30 hits and didn’t give up a homerun.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Overton’s professional debut was the fact that he was pitching with diminished velocity. When completely healthy in college, Overton’s fastball generally ranged from 89-92 MPH. Last season, he was working mostly in the 84-87 MPH range. The A’s expect that the velocity will return as he moves further away from his surgery date. Meanwhile, without the same velocity on his fastball as normal, Overton focused on command and on mixing in his secondary pitches, with great effect.
“He is a true strike-thrower,” former A’s minor league pitching coordinator and current A’s bullpen coach Scott Emerson said. “He doesn’t have his velocity back yet on a consistent basis, but that’s understandable. What has impressed me is his ability to go out there and pitch.
“I think after having the surgery, once you come back, you have to pitch with your command until your velocity gets there. I think at times it makes these guys better pitchers because they start to learn to command the baseball. Then all of a sudden, that velocity comes back and he has that added element of command and velocity. He’s a smooth left-handed pitcher, a good competitor. He throws strikes. He’s done a great job of controlling his delivery. Him and Garvin Alston, our rehab coordinator, have worked hard on his delivery throughout this process. He looks to be on-track.”
Overton features a fastball, a swing-and-miss change-up and a curveball he is comfortable throwing in any count. He mixes his pitches well and can pitch backwards if needed. A’s Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens compared Overton to Andrew Heaney, the former Miami Marlins’ left-hander who is the Los Angeles Angels’ new top prospect. David Newhan, who was the Vermont Lake Monsters’ manager in 2014, described Overton’s arsenal as “lights-out”.
Overton is currently participating in the A’s spring mini-camp. Oakland is likely to be careful with his innings once again in 2015, as they work him back from the surgery. He may be limited to 100-120 innings this season and be back to a full workload in 2016. Even with an innings-limit, Overton should get the opportunity to move up levels during the season if he is pitching well. He was already a polished pitcher coming out of college, and he demonstrated last season that his command of secondary stuff allows him to dominate lower-level hitters. He may reach Double-A by the end of the season.
At 6’3’’, 175, Overton has a similar build to former A’s left-hander Dallas Braden. When at full strength, Overton throws much harder than Braden did, but they do have some similarities. Both feature plus change-ups and both are fierce competitors. Braden had trouble staying healthy. Given Overton’s recent history with the elbow, the A’s will have to be mindful of his health moving forward. However, he has a chance to be a solid number three starter in a big league rotation in another two years. Overton will turn 24 in August.