So the fallout of today's rainout is that following Rich Hill/Jesse Hahn Saturday, Kendall Graveman on Sunday, Sonny Gray on Monday and Sean Manaea on Tuesday, the A's will need a 6th starting pitcher Wednesday at Boston. Options include Eric Surkamp, who might have to go on short rest unless the A's fiddle with his previous start, a "bullpen game" knowing there is an off-day on Thursday, and Dillon Overton.
With no big league experience and not being on the 40-man roster, Overton might be considered a long-shot Why is he the right choice? Some initial reasons:
- The 40-man roster issue should not be a deal-breaker, what with the A's ability to put Chris Bassitt on the 60-day DL and the fact that Overton is likely going to be added to the 40-man roster sooner rather than later anyway.
- The A's overused bullpen (most innings in the AL so far) does not need to be ravaged any further, off-day or no.
- In Surkamp, the A's have a mediocre option in a lefty with average velocity, spotty control, and inconsistent secondary pitches. As a prospect, Overton essentially offers the promise of being better in every way as he brings superior control and a plus changeup to the table. For what it's worth, Overton is off to a strong start at Nashville, having thrown 26⅔ IPin 5 games (4 starts) with 4 BBs, 25 Ks, 0 HRs and a 3.38 ERA.
But let's look at another factor, the one which sways me to say "Bring him up now."
- Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Overton has not built up a huge innings load: just 126 IP last season, 37 IP the season before. Perhaps he will throw around 160 IP this season and even if he is cleared to throw more he is a definite candidate to wear down by season's end. He shares that, unfortunately, with several A's pitchers, e.g., Hill, Hahn, Manaea...
One of the concerns the A's need to have is that many of their pitchers may not have a full season's worth of gas in the tank and could hit a wall before the end of September. In a perfect world, some would pitch April-August and others May-September but it doesn't work that way (except, conveniently, in the case of Henderson Alvarez).
When most everyone starts at the beginning of the season, all the pitchers with 5-months in the tank are going to wear down before the end of the season. So if a pitcher like Overton might have only so many bullets in his arm, why not call him up now, when you need him, have him on the 40-man to call up again mid-season when you need him, rather than have him prepare to come up later -- when you might get the worst he has to offer.
Of course this presumes Overton is ready, that a pitcher with only a handful of AAA starts is a better pitcher than the more experienced, and more tired, one you will get later. To me the question is less "Is Overton fully ready, as ready as he is going to be, right now?" To me the question is more "Should we expect to get a better performance out of Overton or Surkamp?" If Overton is already at the point where he is in fact the better bet, then put him on the 40-man, start his service clock, throw him into the fire -- all those good things.
Overton is a finesse pitcher who relies on command and changing speeds. He is not as raw as Manaea, just as he is not as talented. But for those reasons, while I would expect Manaea to be the better pitcher long-term I would expect Overton to be the cooler customer now. Overton knows how to pitch and I think he could be perfectly effective in a spot start.
I'd like to see what he can do, and I'd like the A's to get the benefit of some of Overton's first 120-160 IP. I don't know if he's ready yet to thrive as an every-5th-day SP in the big leagues, but I'm confident that he is ahead of Surkamp, ready to hold his own, and represents the best option right now. Let's use him while his arm is fresh, not at the end of the year.