Baseball has a way of turning its adherents into wanderers. After starting his MLB career in Chicago and Boston (plus a would’ve-been stint in Durham with the Rays’ AAA affiliate canceled by the pandemic), Dylan Covey moved to Taiwan in an attempt to prove that another MLB club should take a chance on him. His 2 seasons in a Rakuten Monkeys jersey were enough to get a contract from the Dodgers and a return stateside. But before he could head to Tinseltown, the Dodgers wanted him to prove himself in AAA ball. That entailed a move to Oklahoma City, following which he was indeed called up to the big club, made one start, and then immediately got waived. In came a claim from the Phillies. And so his odyssey brought him to Philadelphia where, at last, he had the chance to plant his feet in the majors once more.
2023 stats: 29 games (28 with Philadelphia), 43 IP, 1-3, 3.77 ERA, 3.56 BB/9, 6.28 K/9, 0.0 fWAR.
Covey’s successful tenure in Taiwan suggested that he might be capable of more than his rough start in MLB indicated, and his 2023 served as proof of concept. In Covey’s last 2 MLB seasons prior to his move overseas (2019 and 2020), he posted ugly ERAs of 7.98 and 7.07. In 2023, he produced a much better ERA of 3.77. A new pitch mix may have helped: gone were the 4-seamer and curveball he featured in his first trip through MLB, replaced with a changeup and cutter. Opponents didn’t have a terribly hard time making contact against Covey, but when they did, they were more likely than not to put the ball on the ground.
Covey’s beginning in the City of Brotherly Love was rough. Or in Atlanta, rather, as that’s where he made his lone start in 2023. In that game he allowed 7 runs (5 earned) in a hurry, forcing Rob Thompson to turn to the bullpen before the first inning was over. Fortunately, that was the low point in an otherwise fairly solid season. Though perhaps not quite as solid as it appeared: the underlying metrics suggest that his actual performance was a bit worse than the raw numbers, with an expected ERA of 4.9 (as compared to his recorded ERA of 3.77). While Covey was good at avoiding barreled balls and at keeping batted balls on the ground, he had little ability to make batters miss or to punch them out. A lower back injury ended his regular season early, and he didn’t appear on the postseason roster.
Having signed a 1-year deal to stay in Philadelphia this past November, Covey will continue to wear red pinstripes for 2024. Though not a star, he pitched well enough to keep himself on an MLB roster — and if that seems like damning with faint praise, keep in mind that many of those who leave the majors never make it back. Covey won’t get the nod for high-leverage situations in 2024, but he’ll be throwing pitches in the show.