TABLE SETTER: Austin Overn’s elite baserunning shapes him into a dynamic leadoff hitter

Austin Overn has excelled in the Cape League playing for Chatham and is the No. 131 prospect on’s 2024 Draft rankings

As baseball has evolved throughout the sabermetrics era, managers have reconsidered their approach to who hits leadoff. In the past, a stereotypical leadoff hitter was someone known for his speed and applying pressure to an opposing defense by frequently putting the ball in play.

But throughout Major League Baseball, the leadoff spot has veered off from its previous stereotype. Now, a high-power and low-speed player like Kyle Schwarber (Wareham '12-13) sees his name atop the Philadelphia Phillies’ batting order every day. On the flip side, a high-contact and low-power player like Steven Kwan (Wareham '17) also sees his name atop the Cleveland Guardians’ lineup every day.

The best leadoff hitters have a combination of a stereotypical leadoff hitter, Schwarber and Kwan’s best traits. These players — like Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Gunnar Henderson — are perennial MVP candidates and hard to come by. Thus far into the 2024 Cape Cod Baseball League season, one player who has resembled the skills of an elite across-the-board leadoff hitter is Chatham’s Austin Overn.

“[Overn is] a dynamic guy. [When he] steps up to the box to start a game, everybody better be on their toes, ready to rock and roll,” USC assistant coach Travis Jewett said. “Whether it's a hot smash, a bunt, a hard grounder, a slow grounder, a power ball into a gap or over the fence, there are just so many ways that he can beat you.”

Following two years at USC where he hit .291/.376/.495 with 33 stolen bases and 19 triples across 117 games, Overn is the No. 131 prospect on’s 2024 Draft rankings — the highest ranking among active Cape League position players. After an 11-game stint with Orleans in the 2023 CCBL season, Overn has dominated across 14 games with Chatham in 2024. Overn’s batting average (.364, fourth), slugging percentage (.636, third), on-base plus slugging percentage (1.053, third), stolen bases (five, tied-sixth) and triples (two, tied-first) all rank top 10 in the Cape League. Though the trait that sets Overn apart from other elite leadoff hitters is his baserunning.

When Overn steps up to the plate, Jewett says he’s the type of player that causes opposing teams to “shake in their boots.” Rated as a 75-grade runner by, Overn is among the premier baserunning threats in his draft class. As a freshman with the Trojans in 2023, Overn used his speed to set a program record 14 triples while leading all Pac-12 freshmen with 16 stolen bases.

As Chatham Anglers manager Jeremy Sheetinger built his 2024 roster, he envisioned Overn’s game-changing speed setting the tone atop his order. So far, he’s been rewarded.

In Chatham’s 2-1 win over Brewster on Tuesday, Overn was 2-for-4 at the plate with his biggest hit a game-tying triple in the top of the seventh. On top of his league-leading two triples, Overn is tied for the CCBL lead with four doubles.

“[We wanted him to] be a table setter for us, but it's more about creating some moments that he can turn a single into a double, he can turn a base hit into two bases,” Sheetinger said. “He's got that kind of level of speed.”

A once walk-on wide receiver for USC’s football team and former track runner and basketball player, Overn has always had a natural athletic ability to help him gain an extra base. Beyond his natural speed, he’s worked diligently to become a higher-IQ runner.

“That dude knows when to run and when not to run. He knows his spots,” Sheetinger said of Overn. “He knows when not to force. He's incredibly intelligent. I give him a ton of credit because it's been super easy to coach.”

His baseball IQ has evolved vastly since emerging as the Trojans’ center fielder as a freshman in 2023. Between developing a keen way of reading left-handed pitchers and stretching balls in play an extra base, Overn has discovered how to take away a pitcher’s best asset to limit him on the bases: a slide step.

Like how catchers have adapted to a one-knee-down stance to better frame pitchers, baserunners have also found a way to evolve. This has been done through vaulting, a technique where players take one or two shuffle steps after their initial lead trying to time the pitcher’s delivery.

Though it’s been around baseball for a while — with Jewett noting it’s something Vanderbilt began implementing when he was an assistant coach there from 2013-16 — vaulting didn’t appear in MLB until Anthony Volpe debuted in 2023.

It was a technique Overn wasn’t familiar with when he arrived at USC, but a craft he has strived to perfect since. Near the end of his freshman season, Overn said he began implementing vault leads in-game against Washington late in the season.

As he watched film on Washington’s pitching staff ahead of the series, Overn said he noticed that some of the pitchers were heavy on looking down once before delving to the plate. As a result, Overn began vaulting as the pitcher looked down. Once he raised his leg, Overn already had momentum forward helping him steal. Throughout the three-game series, Overn notched a stolen base in each game.

“Right as he put his head down, I just started shuffling, and it was like some of the easiest stolen bases ever,” Overn said.

Since then, vaulting has been a key emphasis for Overn in practice and through scouting. At each USC practice, Overn said the Trojans carved out 20 minutes solely for baserunning and that Jewett spends significant time working with the players on their vaulting.

In the video room, Overn said that Jewett has shown videos of players, including Volpe, utilizing the technique in the Major Leagues. Because of its use in MLB, Overn said it helped legitimize the technique for him and showed that it wasn’t a silly thing Jewett was trying to put him onto.

Additionally, Overn said he now looks for a pitcher’s tendencies on film, such as when he likes to take breaths, to help him gain an advantage on the bases.

“When I’m vaulting, I'm just thinking dead read, going to steal,” Overn said. “So when I get it, it's just lights out versus I kind of sit there for a second and then realize he's going to home and not getting as good of a jump.”

After experimenting with it at the end of his freshman year, Overn became more comfortable and confident in vaulting. Across his 11 games played with the Firebirds in 2023, he stole seven bases while getting caught just once. Then at USC in 2024, he stole 17 bases, tied for the second-most in the Pac-12.

“I feel like as I keep doing it more and more, I like it more and more,” Overn said. “...Once you get it down, it's a no-brainer that it's better than stationary.”

In his brief time playing for Chatham, Sheetinger has given Overn “the gift of the green light.” Whether it’s in the batter’s box or on the bases, Overn has done nothing but produce throughout his second year on the Cape.

By playing on the Cape, the center fielder’s stock is back on an upward rise, greatly improving after what he admits was a down year at USC in 2024. When Overn is at his best, like he’s been in the CCBL, he can win games in a variety of different ways.

Especially in an environment where players are now encouraged to utilize their speed with bigger bases, a pitch clock and a pickoff limit throughout professional baseball, Overn’s best tool will help him rise the ranks quickly. Coupling that with his hitting upside and improved defense in center field, Overn’s dynamic traits will help him thrive at the next level.

“He can hit it over the fence. He can beat it out. He can steal bags. He can defend. He can affect the game in so many different ways and his speed certainly is one of them,” Jewett said of Overn.

All stats as of games played through July 3

(Photograph by Kyle Adriaansen)