Name: Dylan Covey
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 205
How Acquired: Selected in the 4th round of the 2013 draft
In 2015, right-hander Dylan Covey had his best season since turning pro. However, one gets the sense that he is still just scratching the surface of what he can become as a pitcher.
Covey’s backstory is pretty well known. A star prep pitcher coming out of high school, Covey was the 14th overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Covey was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after a post-draft blood test and he declined to sign with the Brewers in order to stay closer to home and learn how to live with his disease.
Covey enrolled at the University of San Diego, a school known for developing pitchers. He had an up-and-down college career, but the A’s saw enough in Covey to take him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. After turning pro, Covey joined the Vermont Lake Monsters and he got his career off to a red-hot start. In four outings, Covey allowed just one unearned run. He struck-out 15 and walked just one in 12 innings. Covey moved up to Low-A Beloit and made 10 starts for the Snappers. His numbers weren’t as impressive – 4.75 ERA and a 31:17 K:BB in 47.1 innings – but it was his ability to get groundballs that made a significant impression. He finished his pro debut season with a remarkable 3.17 GO/AO.
Dylan Covey stats
Covey spent most of his first full professional season with Beloit, and he had an up-and-down year with the Snappers. In 101 innings, Covey had a 4.81 ERA and a 70:26 K:BB. Even though his ERA stayed high during the second half of the season with the Snappers, Covey’s peripheral numbers improved considerably. The A’s moved him up to High-A at the end of the season and he made seven starts for the Ports. His ERA again remained high (7.15 in 39 innings), but he had his moments of success with Stockton, including carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a late August start.
Covey’s GO/AO remained excellent in 2014, despite the high ERA. He averaged 2.01 groundball outs for every flyball out and he allowed only five homeruns in 140 innings. His velocity was more in the 89-91 MPH range, however, as he practically abandoned his four-seam fastball in favor of his two-seamer. The A’s worked with Covey during spring training in 2015 to change his approach to take more advantage of his power arsenal, which includes a four-seam fastball that can touch 95, instead of relying as much on the two-seamer.
The results for Covey with his new approach were encouraging. He spent the entire 2015 season with Stockton and put together the best year of his career. In 140.1 innings, he posted a 3.59 ERA and a 100:43 K:BB. His GO/AO was still excellent (2.42), although his homerun rate nearly tripled (he allowed 13). Opposing batters had a much more difficult time squaring Covey up in 2015 and he held opponents in the hitter-friendly Cal League to a .250 BAA. He was a mid-season Cal League All-Star. Covey struggled in July, but finished the season strong. In six August and September starts (30.2 innings), Covey’s K/9 was 9.09, his BB/9 rate was 2.05 and his GO/AO was 2.48.
Former A’s minor league pitching coordinator Garvin Alston says that Covey took a big leap forward with his understanding on how to attack hitter.
“Going into last year, he was throwing a lot more two-seam fastballs. He wanted to be that starter who got those quick outs and would last into the sixth or seventh inning, which he did last year in Beloit,” Alston said. “The one thing that I talked to him about when he came to mini-camp was ‘listen, I have seen you pitch, I have seen your numbers and everything else. You can sit 93 with your four-seam fastball instead of being the guy who is always using his two-seam. Don’t get rid of it but use more four-seam fastballs.’
“Looking at his fastballs, his velocity jumped [this year] 1.3 miles per hour, which doesn’t seem like that much but going from 91.6 to almost 93 miles per hour [on average] on his fastball, that’s a pretty hefty jump. I think that had a lot to do with it and now he can play his two-seam off of his four-seam. And I think he’s understanding that. I thought he had a phenomenal year with him pitching in that league in those ballparks.”
A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens also liked the improvements Covey made in 2015.
“I think Dylan actually took a major step forward this year. Going back to his high school days and being a high draft pick and then going to USD, where his numbers were solid but the strike-out totals were never indicative of how hard he was throwing,” Owens said. “This year, the second-half especially, his stuff and his strike-out numbers started to get more synchronized. He has always been a guy who is a groundball machine, throwing that low-90s turbo sinker down in the ‘zone, but his breaking stuff has always had the potential to create more swings-and-misses. Sometimes it was a matter of more sequencing and hitting the right spots later in the counts.”
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman believes that Covey became more of a pitcher than a thrower in 2015.
“He’s learning how to pitch to limit damage and keep runners from moving or scoring. Holding runners better,” Lieppman said. “His whole understanding of what it means to be a pitcher has improved tremendously. That hard sinker continues to work really well. The consistency is in-and-out, but far, far major improvement over last year in terms of competing. Last year, I think the damage control wasn’t as a good, but this year, he might give up a run or two, but he comes back and that is all they are going to get.”
Covey’s best pitch is that two-seam fastball, which sits in that 87-91 range and can generate groundballs almost on command. He also has a four-seam fastball that he can elevate and has enough velocity to get past hitters. Covey doesn’t always locate the four-seamer that well, however, which is something that he will continue to work on going into the 2016 season. He has a 12-6 curveball that can change the eye level of the hitter and gets its share of swings-and-misses. His change-up is inconsistent, but it flashes as an above-average pitch at times.
The 2016 season is going to be a benchmark year for Covey. Now that he is armed with a better understanding of how to sequence his pitches, he will need to show that he can use his entire arsenal throughout the season. Covey will likely always have fewer strike-outs than most pitchers with his quality of stuff because of his reliance on his sinker, but he will need to improve on his K/9 rate to cut down on his reliance on his defense.
Despite his medical condition, Covey has been one of the most durable pitchers in the A’s system since he turned pro, a testament to his work ethic. At 6’2’’, 200, Covey has the frame and the stuff to be a workhorse-type backend starter in the big leagues in the mold of a Jake Westbrook. Covey will be 24 for most of the 2016 season, so this will be the year for him to establish himself as an option for the A’s in 2017 or 2018. He should start the year with Double-A Midland and could work his way to Triple-A by the end of the year.