For the first time in nearly two decades, the Brewers and their first-round Draft pick didn’t strike a deal.
Right-hander Dylan Covey, the 14th overall selection in June’s First-Year Player Draft, declined the Brewers’ offer ahead of Monday’s 11:01 p.m. CT signing deadline and will instead attend the University of San Diego this fall. The Brewers, meanwhile, will get an extra pick in next year’s Draft, likely No. 15 overall, as compensation.
The Brewers missed on Covey but did sign 34 of their 50 Draft picks, including all 11 players selected from Rounds 2-12, six of whom are pitchers. They also signed six undrafted free agents.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid said. “He would have been the cherry on top of what looks like a very nice Draft class. There’s no hard feelings.”
Seid said the problem wasn’t the size of the Brewers’ offer. He deflected further comment to the Covey family.
“We made a serious effort,” Seid said. “Generous, based on the set of circumstances.”
Covey made it clear on Draft day that he wanted at least $2 million to sign, slightly more than the $1.7 million recommended by Major League Baseball for his slot. Amateur scouting director Bruce Seid handled final negotiations at the family’s Pasadena, Calif. home with West Coast crosschecker Corey Rodriguez.
Before Covey, Milwaukee had signed all of its first-round Draft picks since Kenny Henderson was the fifth overall selection in 1991. He went to the University of Miami instead and was drafted in the fourth round by Montreal three years later, but again declined to sign. When the Padres took Henderson in the fifth round in 1995, he finally signed and topped-out at advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 1997. After a stint in independent baseball, Henderson’s career was over.
Covey, a graduate of Pasadena Calif.’s Maranatha High school, turned 19 on Saturday and had a scholarship offer from the University of San Diego to use as leverage in negotiations with the team. Rodriguez stayed in communication with Covey and his family throughout the summer, but the Brewers didn’t make a formal offer until Monday, according to Dylan’s father, Darrell, who officially handled talks to preserve his son’s amateur status.
That lull was not unusual. Most teams waited until the end to submit figures, a strategy to hold down the rising tide of amateur signing bonuses.
Covey drew pre-draft comparisons to the Giants’ Matt Cain and the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley, the latter of whom plays his home games just down the 110 freeway from the Covey residence. In his senior season at Maranatha, Covey went 7-1 with a 0.40 ERA and three saves. He struck out 138 batters versus 20 walks in 70 2/3 innings and was named Gatorade’s California Baseball Player of the Year.
Seid stressed the pitchers who have signed with the Brewers, a list headed by second-round pick Jimmy Nelson. The right-hander from the University of Alabama has not pitched for rookie-level Helena since Aug. 5, but he has 19 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings and has allowed only two earned runs in his last 10 2/3 innings of work after a tough start.
“He had a couple rough innings off the bat, but he’s settled in,” Seid said. “He’s got many more strikeouts than innings, and he’s been clocked up to 96 [mph].”
Third-rounder Tyler Thornburg from Florida Southern University struck out 20 batters in his first 9 1/3 professional innings at Helena and has touched 98 mph. Fifth-rounder Matthew Miller from the University of Michigan is throwing 91-94 mph and leads the Pioneer League with six wins while ranking second with a 1.11 WHIP and fourth with a 2.62 ERA.
That group is at the back end of a pitching pipeline that club officials have made a point to prop up in recent weeks. Seid highlighted the prospect-rich staff at Double-A Huntsville, where right-handers Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress and Andre Lamontagne all possess size and power fastballs. The Brewers might be highest of all on right-hander Jake Odorizzi, a 20-year-old pitching at Class A Wisconsin.
“There’s a tremendous amount to be excited about,” Seid said. “There are some darn good arms in this system that have a chance to flourish. We’re pretty excited about what the next few years are going to bring from a pitching standpoint.”