Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lyle Overbay

Well, so far the shiniest Christmas gift Santa has stuck in the Buccos' stocking is first baseman Lyle Overbay.

He's a Centralia, Washington native, a month away from turning 34. Overbay started his pro career when he was drafted from the University of Nevada at Reno by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 18th round of the 1999 draft.

The minors didn't prove to be much of a challenge; Overbay was playing AA ball by 2000 and was a full-time big leaguer by 2004. His minor league career line was .341/.411/.531 with 161 doubles, 63 dingers and 427 RBI in 2,000 farm at-bats.

Overbay was the D-Back's minor league player of the year and got a cup of coffee with Arizona in 2001-02. Overbay's first long sip was an 86 game audition in 2003 (he made the team, was sent down in June and recalled in September) when he hit .276/4/28.

In December, he was traded with Chris Capuano, Craig Counsell, Chad Moeller, Jorge de la Rosa and Junior Spivey to the Milwaukee Brewers for Richie Sexson, Shane Nance and Noochie Varner.

The big lefty did pretty well with the Brew Crew, too. In two seasons, he hit .289/35/159 with 87 doubles. He did well enough to catch the eye of the Blue Jays, looking for a first sacker. They got him and Ty Taubenheim from the Brewers in exchange for David Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson.

In 2006, he had a career season with a line of .312/22/92. Overbay was named AL Player of the Week after hitting .423 and hitting 4 HR from June 26th to July 2nd. His reward was a new four-year contract worth $24M, buying out his final two arb years and his first two years of free agency.

The glow didn't last long. He was whacked with a pitch in June, breaking three bones his hand and landing Overbay on the DL. He didn't return until after the All-Star break, and hit just .240/10/44 in 122 games.

Overbay rallied some in 2008, hitting .270/15/69 in 158 games. He also set a team record by reaching base in his 12th consecutive plate appearance by walking on a full count. Overbay is also became one of only 14 players to hit into an unassisted triple play that year.

He had a very similar season in 2009, with a line of .265/16/64, and earned another Player of the Week award in June. His .243/20/67 stats in 2010 came at the end of his Toronto contract, and also ended his Blue Jay career. He was mentioned in trade speculation from the off-season forward, and ironically one of the strongest rumors was a purported Overbay-for-Chris Snyder deal.

Becoming a free agent for the first time wasn't exactly discovering a pot of gold for Overbay, as the Bucs signed him to a one-year, $5M deal. He made nearly $7M in 2010, but this contract it gives him a year to either rebuild his value or show his age.

Similar batters to Overbay, according to Baseball Reference, are Kevin Young, Donn Clendennon, and Adam LaRoche, a pack of steady but not difference-making first basemen with dependable bats and gloves. His average 162-game line is .274/17/75, which the Pirates would be thrilled to get from him.

His acquisition upgrades the defense significantly without impacting the offense. Overbay is a better first baseman than Jones, and Jones is a better outfielder than Ryan Doumit. Overbay wasn't brought in to replace Garrett Jones but to complement him; in reality, he's Doumit's replacement.

He's an OK bat, with more gap power than long ball muscle, although the FO is hoping that the short fence at PNC adds to his HR total in 2011. The biggest knock on him is that he's a DP candidate, but he averages 15 GIDP per season compared to Dewey's 16, so that's a wash.

In fact, his 162-game average line of .274/17/75 with 554 at-bats is a twin to Doumit's line of .268/18/72 in 531 at-bats. They've even hit lefties at the same rate during their careers, with Overbay holding a slight .259 to .256 BA advantage over Dewey.

And it's not just a matter of same bat, better glove. One key may be that the most games that Doumit has played in a season is 124, and he's topped 400 AB just twice, while in the past seven years, the fewest games that Overbay has played has been 122 (he's topped 150 five times) and batted 500 times+ for five of those seasons, never getting fewer than 423 at-bats.

The Pirates are getting an upgrade defensively and some added durability. Overbay is also somewhat of a fan fav, with "O" signs greeting his Brewer and Blue Jay at-bats. Heck, Milwaukee even had a bobblehead night for him. His signing isn't a season-changing dynamic, but it does get them one step closer to respectability.


WilliamJPellas said...

Hmmm. I didn't realize Overbay was such an elite hitting prospect during his minor league days. He was flat out awesome in the bushes. I also didn't know he'd had that serious hand injury. It's very evident he hasn't been the same player since that time. I guess that's something else he and Doumit have in common, eh? But if we can get his career average numbers, that along with his defense will do nicely for a season. From there I guess it depends on whether Alvarez gets moved to first right away, which in turn depends on whether Rendon is really going to be drafted or not. Meanwhile I suppose the team could move Pedro after 2011 and fill in for a season or two with Fields et al.

Ron Ieraci said...

My guess, Wil, is that they draft Rendon and move Pedro when he comes up, likely sometime in 2013.

So it looks like they're filling a two or three season window at first, whether it's with Overbay, Atkins, Pearce, Clement, Fields, Marte, or whomever.

It gets interesting only if they decide to go for a college arm in the draft, which is not beyond the realm of possibility; there are some good ones available.