Name: B.J. Boyd
Height/Weight: 5’11’’, 230
How Acquired: Drafted in 4th round in 2012
When the story of B.J. Boyd’s baseball career is told, the 2014 season figures to be a pivotal one. It will either be the year that Boyd faced and eventually overcame his first serious adversity as a professional, or it will be the year that his career slid the wrong direction.
"[Boyd] is trying to figure out how his talent translates to the pro game and he’s trying to learn who he is in a deeper way than just simply being physically better than everyone." - A's Assistant Hitting Coach Marcus Jensen
A fourth-round pick out of Palo Alto High School in 2012, Boyd breezed through his first two seasons in professional baseball. He posted an 835 OPS in 2012 for the AZL A’s and an 817 OPS for short-season Vermont in 2013. Boyd earned co-MVP honors with the Lake Monsters in 2013 and was a mid-season New York-Penn League All-Star.
Big things were expected of Boyd as he made the jump to full-season ball in 2014. Unfortunately, Boyd got off to a rough start with the Beloit Snappers and was never able to get on track. He finished the year with a .226/.300/.319 line in 125 games for the Snappers. Boyd had six homers, five triples and 15 doubles.
The struggles for Boyd were across the board. His strike-out rate went down, but his walk rate also tumbled by more than two percent. Boyd’s line-drive rate also fell and his BABIP was only .270. Defensively, Boyd struggled with his routes as he split his time between left field and centerfield. Boyd also struggled on the bases, stealing just 15 in 24 chances.
It’s important to remember that Boyd is still very young and just as talented as he was coming into the 2014 season, when he was a top-15 system prospect. Boyd’s struggles in 2014 could serve to make him a better player down-the-road. As he begins to discover what kind of player he will be as he advances, he will be more able to leverage his immense talents.
Beloit’s manager in 2014, Rick Magnante, was impressed with how Boyd handled his ups-and-downs this season.
“[Boyd] has worked through some adversity this year,” Magnante said after the end of the season. “I thought he finished well and his attitude was good at the end. He stayed positive, even though his numbers probably didn’t reflect it.”
Boyd split his time in high school between playing football and baseball and he still has that running back build with a thick lower body and upper-body strength, as well. He has the ability to hit for power, but the A’s would like to see Boyd use his legs more as a weapon both at the plate and on the bases. He spent the fall Instructional League working with Rickey Henderson on reading pitcher’s moves and getting better jumps off of the bases. He also devoted time to being a better bunter. He made progress during Instructs on all elements of his game, but he left knowing he still had a lot more to work on.
Former A’s minor league hitting coordinator and new assistant hitting coach Marcus Jensen says that Boyd is still finding himself as a player.
“B.J. is athletic. He has got a lot of talent. He’s got the speed element,” Jensen said. “He is trying to figure out how his talent translates to the pro game and he’s trying to learn who he is in a deeper way than just simply being physically better than everyone. That’s the challenge of kids coming from high school into the pro game. They are accustomed to being the dominant player coming out of high school, and all of a sudden, they are playing with guys who are just as good, if not better. It doesn’t take away from the tools that you already have, but now you have to learn to play with those tools at a higher level. Not only at the level that you are at, but you have to figure out how those tools will help you at the higher levels.
“As a young player, he’s just learning. The game, unfortunately, is humbling. With that, it kind of challenges who you are on the inside and your motivation to keep improving and keep grinding. A lot of times, a season like the one Boyd had is something that can be used as a catalyst that can keep teaching him what kind of adjustments he needs to make. I think that is the biggest thing with Boyd is getting him to understand the right adjustments that need to be made in order for all of his tools to be utilized and for him to have the season that he is capable of.”
Boyd has the physical ability to be an impact player at the upper levels. He is one of the fastest players in the A’s system. Although his baseball skills are still somewhat raw, Boyd has a good basic understanding of the strike-zone and he has demonstrated in the past the ability to barrel the ball and hit for average. Boyd’s defensive skills are raw, but he has average arm strength and enough speed to be a solid corner outfielder and a centerfielder in a pinch.
Boyd has a similar skill-set to former longtime starter Shannon Stewart. Boyd has a long way to go to realize that potential, however. Although Boyd struggled this season in Low-A, he could still jump to High-A at the start of next year if he has a strong showing during spring training. Boyd won’t turn 22 until July and has plenty of time to make improvements with his game.