The Situation: Oakland’s pitching staff has been ravaged by injuries, and with Sean Manaea and Rich Hill both rehabbing, Dillon Overton will be the next prospect to step up and get a chance to show what he can do in green and gold.
Background: Overton was a highly regarded prospect in his time at the University Of Oklahoma, and was actually the “go-see” pitcher to start the year on a staff that included Jon Gray. A so-so junior season along with injury concerns saw his stock drop, but Oakland saw enough to take him in the second round of the 2013 draft. He quickly underwent Tommy John surgery after signing, and didn’t make his pro debut until the summer of 2014. He overmatched hitters in his time in Arizona and the NYPL upon his return, and in much tougher surroundings in 2015, he was able put up solid numbers in the treacherous Cal League and even better numbers upon the promotion to Double-A. Before the call-up he was more than holding his own for Triple-A Nashville, posting a 3.01 ERA with 72 strikeouts in just under 83 innings.
Scouting Report: If you’re the type of person who believes you need a huge fastball to be successful, Dillon Overton would like to have a word with you. While he once had a fastball that would touch 95 mph, he’s more 88-91 now. The pitch plays up to average or possibly a tick above because there’s some life to it, but this is certainly not going to a swing-and-miss pitch against big leaguers.
What can be strikeout offerings, however, are his off-speed pitches. The change is the out pitch, with a great deal of fade and no noticeable difference in the arm speed between that and his heater. The curveball doesn’t have quite the same level of success, but it also flashes above-average, and he’ll add or take away velocity from the offering while showing tight spin and quality depth. He’s not immune to hanging either of these pitches, but in general, he has impressive feel for both.
All three of these pitches play up because Overton throws them for strikes. He repeats an easy delivery with little effort, and though the command isn’t elite, it’s above-average. My one concern is that there is a bit of crossfire action, and while that might help with the change, right-handed hitters are going to pick up a 50 fastball quickly, so that puts added pressure on the secondaries. For more, here's an Eyewitness Report from Wilson Karaman last June.
Immediate Big League Future: It should be obvious if you read the scouting report, but just in case you decided to skip down to this section and ignore everything else, Overton is not going to be an overpowering pitcher. You’re looking at a guy who is going to have to rely on deception and command to get hitters out, and fortunately, the stuff is advanced enough that he can do just that. The margin of error is very thin, but assuming he continues to throw strikes with all three pitches, he should be a serviceable fourth or fifth starter. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Take: Following the demotion of Erik Surkamp, Overton will make his debut tonight in Anaheim. He will probably only be in the majors for one start, as noted by beat writer Susan Slusser. That doesn’t mean he isn’t worth a pickup in roto leagues, though. The Oakland rotation behind Rich Hill hasn’t performed all that well so far this year, and it hasn’t been healthy, either. If Overton is returned to Triple-A as expected after today’s start, he’ll be first in line for a recall on a team with a rotation full of pitchers with spotty injury histories and at least one guy who is likely to be traded before the deadline (Hill).
Overton doesn’t have a clean health record himself, though. He had Tommy John surgery shortly after he was drafted in 2013 and is still building up to a full starter’s workload after throwing a career-high 126 innings last year. Even if he sticks in Oakland’s rotation for the rest of the season, it’s unlikely that the A’s would let him throw more than 160-170 innings total. Since he has already thrown 83 2/3 innings in Triple-A, he’d probably be shut down after 10-15 more starts across both levels. Don’t expect anything out of him in September unless the A’s move him to the bullpen to conserve those innings.
What should you expect from Overton on the mound? In Triple-A this year, the skinny Oklahoman has posted good numbers for a lefty with a low-90s fastball and a command-and-control profile, striking out 72 batters with 22 walks, a 3.01 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Over his last seven starts, he has been even better, putting up a 1.40 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 38 K, 15 BB, and 0 HR in 45 innings. Digging a little deeper, he has demonstrated the ability to suppress home runs in the minors, with a career HR/9 well below 1.0 and a minuscule 0.2 HR/9 so far this year.
He won’t strike out more than a batter per inning for your roto team, but his command-based profile and his ability to keep the ball in the park should make him less likely to destroy your rate stats than a lot of rookie starters. The fact that he’ll be making half of his starts in Oakland is a boon for roto owners, too. In shallower leagues, Overton probably isn’t worth a pickup but could be interesting if he sticks in Oakland and does well in his first few starts. In deeper leagues, Overton is worth a FAAB dollar or two, but don’t go much higher than that given the uncertainty around his spot in the rotation and his mid-rotation profile. —Scooter Hotz
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