Name: B.J. Boyd
Height/Weight: 5’11’’, 230
How Acquired: Selected in the 4th round of the 2012 MLB Draft.
B.J. Boyd spent most of the 2017 season at the front of the Texas League batting title race. Although he fell just short of that crown, the outfielder still had a breakout season. Can Boyd force his way up the Oakland A’s centerfield depth chart in 2018?
It took Boyd a year longer than expected to reach Double-A, but the Palo Alto native didn’t let the opportunity pass him when he finally reached the Texas League. Despite putting together a solid 2015 season with High-A Stockton, Boyd was forced to repeat the California League in 2016 thanks to a backlog of outfielders in the upper-levels of the A’s system. He got a taste of Triple-A at the end of the 2016 season, making an impact for the Nashville Sounds in the post-season.
In 2017, Boyd broke camp with the RockHounds. He hit .372 in April and never looked back, putting together his best year at a full-season level. In 130 games for the RockHouds, Boyd hit .323/.366/.428. He collected 40 extra-base hits and stole 16 bases. Boyd was the MVP of the Texas League All-Star game and a post-season Texas League All-Star. He finished third in the league in batting (it should be noted that the two batters who finished ahead of Boyd played in 14 and 47 fewer Texas League games than Boyd), 10th in OBP, first in hits and first in runs scored.
Boyd’s big season came despite posting the lowest walk-rate of his career (5.9%). However, the drop in walks coincided with a significant improvement in contact rate. He struck-out a career-low 12.8%. When Boyd hit the ball, he hit it hard, collecting a .364 BABIP and a 19.2% line-drive rate. He worked the opposite field well, hitting more balls to left field than any other spot on the diamond.
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said that Boyd came into his own as a hitter in 2017.
“I think he finally found his own voice,” Lieppman said in a mid-season interview. “A lot of people over the years have given him a lot of ideas for how to work with his mechanics and a lot of it was very helpful. He had a real big hitch in his swing and I think he eliminated that, but once he got to a certain point, he took it upon himself to become his own person. He really just took off with it. It took a lot of time and effort and a lot of guys giving him information, but I think finally he took it into his own mind that it was something he was going to figure out and he did.”
Boyd has the tools of a prototypical lead-off hitter. Although he has never had huge walk totals, Boyd has a solid approach at the plate. He waits a long time on pitches and is able to pounce on pitches he can handle and spoil off pitches deep in counts. At the start of his career, Boyd looked to pull a lot of pitches out of the park, but over the past two seasons, he has been content to work the opposite field gaps and to hit the ball on the line. That approach has produced much better results for Boyd. He is one of the fastest players in the A’s system. As one of the better bunters in the organization, Boyd can use his legs to put pressure on the defense both in the batter’s box and on the bases.
Defensively, Boyd is able to cover a lot of ground in center and he has sure hands in the outfield. During his career, he has logged significant time at all three outfield positions. His throwing arm is only average, but he has improved considerably over the years in getting the ball back into the cut-off man accurately.
Boyd’s base-running has also improved. He is still working on getting more consistent jumps when attempting stolen bases, but Boyd demonstrated a smart, aggressive style of base-running when going first-to-third or second-to-home while with the RockHounds. If he can perfect his jumps on stolen bases, he has the speed to be a 25+ stolen base threat.
Boyd was left unprotected for next month’s Rule 5 draft, and he could generate some interest from clubs looking for a back-up outfielder. A high school pick in 2012, he will be 24 until July. He is stuck behind Dustin Fowler and Boog Powell on the A’s left-handed hitting, centerfield depth chart, but with Jaycob Brugman’s trade to Baltimore, Boyd should have a spot in Triple-A Nashville in 2018, if he isn’t lost in the Rule 5 draft.
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