Who is Connor Overton, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Newest Pitcher?

Connor Overton; source: Toronto Blue Jays Twitter

It was very heartening to me to see Connor Overton get the call to the Blue Jays yesterday. That said, what do we really know about him? There have been some “introduction” articles on various blogs out there but they really don’t go into the young man’s (yes, to me, he’s a young man) varied career as deeply as we’d like to see.

We present Connor Overton’s profile from The 2020 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, updated to include his stellar 2021 season.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Connor Overton grew up in Richmond’s suburbs and would regularly go see the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels play. Overton’s dad, Dee, had professional baseball connections, winning a state title twice in high school before going to a junior college in North Carolina and getting drafted by the Yankees in the eight round of the secondary draft in 1982 (when they had more than one draft), although injuries prevented him from going pro. When Connor got to Atlee High School, he was at home as a shortstop, rather than on the mound (where he hit 86 mph), a position that would later become his professional vocation. His high school coach, Kevin Elrod told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Overton “had talent, but he was never number one, the best around. But he’s a workhorse.”

Overton became a pitcher at Old Dominion University, where he struggled as a freshman, posting a 6.54 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in 31 2/3 innings starting six of his 14 games. He struck out 18 and walked 12. Overton missed his second year, red shirting after suffering a shoulder injury and having a piece of bone shaved down but returned as a redshirt sophomore in 2014 to throw 42 innings out of the bullpen with a 2.79 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, striking out 43 and walking 15. Overton had put on some weight (up to 190 pounds from 150 in high school) and had added velocity to be able to throw in the low-90s by this point in his career.

Drafted in the 15th round of the 2014 draft by the Marlins, Overton went to work as a pro, throwing another 21 innings with the Batavia Muckdogs in the New York-Penn League and had a 4.71 ERA and 1.81 WHIP, striking out 20.4% of batters and walking 14.3%. An injury put an end to the season as he was placed on the 60-day DL on August 22.

Overton got a late start on the 2015 season but was assigned to the Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League (Class-A) where he had a 13.03 ERA and 3.00 WHIP in 9 2/3 innings, allowing 14 runs with five walks and seven strikeouts. He was released by Miami at the beginning of July and signed with the Washington Nationals, going to their Short-Season-A club in Auburn. With the Doubledays, Overton did much better, throwing 19 1/3 innings with a 3.72 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, striking out 15.9% of batters and walking 6.1%. He would pitch once in Triple-A Syracuse at the end of the year, giving up a run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts in two innings in his only appearance.

A free agent at the end of the year, Overton looked for work, heading to the independent American Association and the Sioux City Explorers for work. There, he put up a 1.96 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 36 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, striking out 45 batters and walking 12 before he was picked up by the San Francisco Giants and got into just one game, throwing 1/3 of an innings for the Advanced-A San Jose Giants, giving up two runs. The rough time in San Jose was likely because his elbow had blown and he underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of 2017.

Overton started 2018 with the San Jose Giants, making four appearances and pitched well, giving up just a run on five hits and a walk in eight innings, striking out seven. He moved up to Triple-A Sacramento for two outings, throwing 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts before moving to the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels in his home town. There, he pitched three times, allowing two earned runs on 10 hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings but was moved back to San Jose He pitched four more times in San Jose, allowing two runs in six innings, striking out five and walking one before going back home to Richmond. There he pitched four more times, including two starts where he was hit harder, giving up eight runs on 13 hits (including two home runs) in 11 2/3 innings, but he did strike out 15 batters. Moved back down to San Jose, he pitched for another two weeks, posting an 8.18 ERA and allowing 10 runs on 15 hits and five walks in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts before he was shut down for the season.

Overton started 2019 in Richmond and had a 3.62 ERA and 1.61 WHIP over 27 1/3 innings, striking out 20.8% of batters while walking 9.2%. That didn’t stop him from getting released in June and he caught on with the Lancaster Barnstormers in the independent Atlantic League. With Lancaster, he worked as a starter, posting a 4.02 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, striking out 56 batters and walking 15.

In the offseason, Overton reworked his delivery and increased velocity, starting to sit 94-96 while touching 100 mph. He added a cutter that sat 88-92 mph and had a curveball between 77-80 mph while his changeup was 84-88 mph. Looking over some video there appeared to be a ton of movement on his offspeed pitches and, from what I’ve been able to gather, Rob Friedman’s (a.k.a, the Pitching Ninja) Flatground App likely got teams’ attention, signing with the Blue Jays in February 2020.

Overton became a free agent after the aborted 2020 season and re-signed with the Blue Jays in February of 2021. When the season got underway in May, Overton was sent to Buffalo to pitch in Triple-A for the first time since 2018. Overton made an immediate impression, and was starting to be used in a swingman, having some stellar starts along the way, including six innings of two-hit ball on May 15 against Rochester. He also started four games in a row between the end of July before going back into a bullpen role since.

From looking at the stats, his stuff might play up a bit as a reliever, indicated by 28 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings as opposed to 22 strikeouts in 30 innings as a starter. Overall, his numbers are spectacular leading into his call up, with a 2.18 ERA and 1.075 WHIP, striking out 50 and walking only 10 in 57 2/3 innings of work.

All the best to Connor Overton, making his major league debut, hopefully soon, but it was a huge accomplishment with a lot of grit for him to get where he’s gotten.

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