Name: Dylan Covey
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 200
How Acquired: Selected in the 4th round of the 2013 draft
The numbers weren’t pretty for Dylan Covey in 2014, but sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story as it relates to the future potential of a player. In Covey’s case, the numbers are an indication of what needs to be improved but not a reflection of his overall talent.
Covey was one of the most recognizable names amongst the A’s 2013 draft class. Coming out of high school, Covey was the 14th overall selection in the 2010 draft. However, Covey elected to go to college rather than sign with the Milwaukee Brewers because he learned shortly after the draft that he had Type 1 diabetes. Covey spent the next three years learning to manage the disease while also improving his pitching under the tutelage of the University of San Diego coaching staff.
Covey’s numbers in college were inconsistent (he went from a 3.33 ERA as a sophomore to a 5.03 ERA as a junior), but the A’s scouts liked the potential of his fastball and breaking ball and took him in the fourth round. He received a bonus of $370,000 and signed soon after the draft.
Covey got off to a fast start as a pro. After a couple of impressive bullpen sessions in front of the A’s coaching staff in Arizona, Covey was assigned to short-season Vermont. He made four starts for the Lake Monsters and dominated, allowing just an unearned run in 12 innings. He struck-out 15 and walked just one.
"The guy has good stuff. It's all about him maturing as a pitcher and learning what he needs to do against these advanced hitters." - A's bullpen coach Scott Emerson
The A’s then sent Covey to Low-A Beloit, where he would spend the rest of the 2013 regular season. Covey ran into a bigger challenge in the Midwest League. In 10 starts with the Snappers, he had a 4.75 ERA and a 31:17 K:BB over 47.1 innings. His GO/AO was a remarkable 3.04, however.
In 2014, Covey returned to Beloit. He spent the first half of the season with the Snappers and again found mixed results. At times, he was the best pitcher on the Beloit staff. However, the big inning was an issue for Covey at times, as well, and his ERA was 4.81 in 101 innings with the Snappers. His GO/AO remained a remarkable 2.09, but his K:BB was just 70:26.
Despite those ups-and-downs, Covey moved up to High-A Stockton for the final two months of the season. He made eight starts for the Stockton Ports, and he vacillated from domination and struggles. In one start, he carried a no-hitter into the seventh, but he followed up that outing with a three-inning start in which he allowed seven runs. Covey’s Stockton ERA was 7.15 and he had a 22:15 K:BB in 39 innings.
All told, Covey finished his first full professional season with 140 innings pitched and a 5.46 ERA. He struck-out 92, walked 41 and allowed 148 hits. However, his FIP was 3.44 and he had a 56% groundball rate. His walk-rate of 2.64 was okay, but he struck-out only 5.91 per nine innings, a low number for a pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss breaking ball.
When the A’s first selected Covey in 2013, he drew a comparison to Roger Clemens for his power pitching arsenal and delivery from former A’s minor league pitching coordinator and current A’s bullpen coach Scott Emerson. However, Covey shied away from that power-pitcher approach for much of the 2014 season, electing instead to rely on his two-seamer to get groundballs. While that approach was effective in terms of generating groundballs, it took away from the overall quality of Covey’s stuff and left a lot more responsibility in the hands of his defenders. Covey’s four-seamer has been regularly clocked in the 93-95 MPH range, but he often pitched in the 89-91 MPH range last season because of his reliance on his two-seamer. The A’s would like to see Covey get back to being that power-pitcher first and use the two-seamer as more of a secondary option.
“He has a very good sinking fastball, which we really didn’t see much of last year,” Emerson said towards the end of the 2014 regular season. “He threw a lot of four-seamers and his velocity was 93-94. Now he is throwing more two-seamers and he is generally sitting a few MPHs lower, but we know he still has that 94-95 in him.
“But his change-up has been very good and he’s got a good curveball. The guy has good stuff. It’s all about him maturing as a pitcher and learning what he needs to do against these advanced hitters. That sinker is outstanding, but I try to remind him that we would rather have him be a power pitcher with a sinker than just a sinkerballer.”
Command was also an issue for Covey last season. When he was able to hit his spots, he was dominant, but when his pitches leaked out over the plate, he wasn’t able to get away from those big innings. Covey’s misses tended to be down in the strike-zone, however, so he was able to stay away from the homerun ball, allowing just five all season.
Now four-plus years removed from his initial diabetes diagnosis, Covey has developed a routine that allows him to manage his disease. He proved with his 140-inning season that he has the stamina to be a starting pitcher. Finding the right approach to getting hitters out and being consistent with that approach every game will allow Covey to take the next step in his development.
Because of his struggles at the end of the season with Stockton, Covey is likely to return to the California League to start the 2015 season. However, if he gets off to a fast start with the Ports, he should have a clear path to move up to Double-A Midland. He has some of the best stuff in the A’s system and will be closely watched this year. Covey will be 23 until mid-August.