Name: Dillon Overton
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 175
How Acquired: Selected in the second round of the 2013 MLB draft
One of the biggest myths to arise in baseball over the past few years is that pitchers who have Tommy John surgery all return with the same – or better – velocity than they had before the surgery. Dillon Overton is one example of a player who hasn’t seen his velocity return to pre-surgery levels yet. While he may not light up the radar gun like he did in college, Overton is still on-track to make an impact in the big leagues.
Before injury got in the way, Overton looked like a potential top-10 pick in the 2013 draft. The left-hander out of Oklahoma was the Sooners’ top pitcher heading into that season, even on a staff that included eventual top-five pick Jonathan Gray. Overton struck-out more than a batter an inning during his sophomore year (124 in 122.2 innings), while showing good command of three pitches and featuring a 92-94 MPH fastball.
Dillon Overton Stats
Things didn’t go according to script for Overton during his junior year, however. His velocity fluctuated the entire season and he missed starts with the dreaded forearm strain. Although his overall numbers for the Sooners were solid (3.02 ERA in 92.1 innings), Overton’s draft stock sunk thanks to questions about his health and his dip in strike-out totals (only 7.70 per nine innings). The A’s took him in the second round, 63rd overall.
At the time of the draft, the A’s front office stated that they believed Overton was healthy, but no one was terribly shocked when it was revealed that he needed Tommy John surgery. Overton signed with the A’s to a below-slot bonus and had the surgery that July. He didn’t make his professional debut until that following June with the Arizona Rookie League A’s.
The A’s were cautious with Overton during his professional debut season, keeping him in the short-season leagues for the entire year. His numbers were spectacular – 1.95 ERA in 37 innings with 53 strike-outs and four walks – but Overton’s fastball rarely broke 86 MPH, raising some concerns about his overall projection. On the plus side, he focused on learning to “pitch backwards” – using his off-speed pitches to set-up his fastball – something he had never had to do in college. Gaining that ability allowed Overton to pitch effectively despite the lack of velocity.
The A’s put Overton’s “pitchability” to the test in 2015. They sent him out to the hitter-friendly California League for his first full-season experience. Although he was on a strict innings limit that kept him to five innings or less in every start, Overton proved that his stuff would play in a hitter’s league while with the Stockton Ports. He threw 61.1 innings with Stockton, posting a 3.82 ERA and putting up a 59:12 K:BB. Overton allowed more than two runs in only three of 14 outings and more than one run in only five of 14.
At mid-season, Overton joined the Double-A Midland rotation. He continued to pitch with a five-innings-per-start cap, but still contributed to the RockHounds’ run to the Texas League title. In 64.2 innings, Overton posted a 3.06 ERA and a 47:15 K:BB. Overton finished the season strong, not allowing a run over his final four starts. In those 19.2 innings, he allowed just 15 hits and four walks while striking out 19.
Overton’s velocity also improved as the season went on. Although it didn’t remain consistent, Overton did register 92 MPH on several occasions with his fastball (even touching 93 a few times) and he lived in the 87-90 MPH range, a roughly 4 MPH increase over his 2014 readings. Former A’s minor league coordinator Garvin Alston is hopeful that the velocity increase in 2015 is a sign that there is more to come in 2016.
“It is still going to be a wait-and-see proposition, but I think that the path that he is on is one that we can be optimistic about for his future,” Alston said. “Next year will be the tell-tale year.”
In addition to the fastball, Overton has an outstanding change-up that is very effective in disrupting the hitter’s timing. His curveball is behind his change-up in terms of consistency, but when he is throwing the pitch well, Overton can throw it for strikes and get swings-and-misses on it. He spots his fastball well to both sides of the plate. Overton is a fierce competitor who isn’t afraid to challenge hitters. He is a flyball pitcher and when he misses, he does get hit hard. However, he has good command the majority of the time.
A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens says that the question with Overton isn’t whether he will pitch in the big leagues, but what role he will ultimately fill.
“It has been fun to see him post-surgery just be as artistic as he is with his pitches,” Owens said. “Where he ultimately ends up as far as from a rotation standpoint will depend on ultimately where that velocity ends up.”
While the velocity hasn’t returned to its pre-surgery numbers, Overton’s recovery from Tommy John surgery has otherwise been relatively smooth. He stayed on-turn all last season and racked up enough innings that he should be able to pitch without too many restrictions in 2016. Overton has always been very slim, which has led to questions about whether he can remain a starter long-term. That question remains to be answered, but it was a good sign that he was able to throw more than 120 innings without issue in his first full year back from the surgery.
Currently, Overton has a very similar profile to former A’s starter Dallas Braden. They have similar body types and competitive natures and both use their off-speed pitches well to set-up their fastballs. Overton’s pure stuff has a chance to be better than Braden’s if his velocity continues to increase, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Overton fill a similar starter’s role to Braden in the near future.
Overton is a non-roster invitee to the A’s spring training camp. He projects to start the year in the Triple-A Nashville rotation and could push for a spot in the A’s rotation by the end of the year. Overton will need to be added to the A’s 40-man roster this off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.