Not many people had Matt Boyd pegged as a prospect coming into this season. He only made it as an Honorable Mention on our own Top Prospects list, but he’s been looking to change that perception during the early going of the minor league season. The 23-year-old left-handed pitcher has been absolutely dominant, but the question remains on the minds of many Blue Jays fans… where did this guy come from?
Boyd’s young career began at Mercer Island High School in Washington state, where he won the school’s Rookie of the Year award during his freshman season in 2006. During the following three years, Boyd took his talents off of the island and on to Eastside Catholic High School in the neighboring city of Sammamish. In his sophomore, junior and senior seasons there he stood out as a two-way star. He started as a first baseman and pitcher while batting well over .400 and striking out 172 batters over only 124 1/3 innings during his career at Eastside. His overall athleticism was especially exemplified during his junior season, when he was named to his Metro All-Star team as both a first baseman and pitcher.
From there he moved on to Oregon State University in 2010 to continue playing both sides of the ball. During his freshman year at OSU he had a phenomenal season on the mound. He posted a 1.90 ERA primarily as a reliever. As a hitter though, the results were not as promising. He hit an average .264 with three home runs while starting only 16 games.
While his hitting potential probably could have polished with practice, the pitching potential was just too great to ignore. He spent his next three college seasons exclusively as a pitcher and the results were very promising. He spent his sophomore season exclusively as a reliever and posted another sub-2 ERA (1.57) with a slightly below average 6.5 K/9, which was still enough to earn him a spot on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team for the summer of 2011. He pitched again in relief the following season and, while his ERA was not as impressive, his K/9 actually increased to a much more acceptable 7.6 mark. The results got him drafted by the Cincinnati Reds during the 2012 draft, but the lure to return to school was far too great for him and, as a 13th round draft pick, the offer was also less than to his liking. He opted to not sign with the Reds and instead returned to OSU for his final year of school. As a senior, Boyd left his relief role and substantially increased his workload to finally become a full-time starter. The move paid off and Boyd gradually became the de facto ace of the staff. He ended the season with an outstanding 2.04 ERA over 132 2/3 innings while striking out 122 batters. His sterling statistics were highlighted by his improved 8.3 K/9 ratio, which got him chosen for three different All-America teams that year.
The Blue Jays drafted him after his stand-out senior season in the 6th round of the 2013 draft and he signed for a healthy $75,000 that July. In Boyd, the Jays saw a big, durable starting pitcher who had shown the ability to mix multiple pitches effectively. The 6’3”, 215lbs. pitcher has been clocked as high as 94 MPH on his fastball, but it usually sits closer around the high 80s while scraping the low 90s. According to my colleague Jay Blue, who has seen him pitch before, he has good control with the fastball and is very capable of spotting it on the corners for strikes. He also throws a curveball that has a sharp bite as well as good two-plane movement, and a change-up that may be his least developed pitch. As for his delivery, he features a high-leg kick, which can effect his ability to handle runners on base but also allows him be deceptive while delivering the ball to home plate.
Although he started the minor league season late, Boyd made a strong showing for the Jays organization in Class A Lansing. He struck out 12 over 14 innings there, which earned him a late season promotion to Class Advanced A Dunedin. He initially started off strong there, pitching 4 innings of shutout relief in which he struck out 5, but he ended the season with two poor starts, including a playoff loss in which he gave up 4 runs on 2 homeruns in only 4 innings.
Small sample size or not, few were expecting much from Boyd as a pitching prospect until he started lighting up the Florida State League in the early going of the 2014 season. Boyd was not the typical low-risk, low-potential 6th round senior sign for the Blue Jays, and he has seemingly been out to prove that. He started opening day for the Dunedin Blue Jays and, over his past three starts; he has pitched 17 scoreless innings. Furthermore, his K/9 ratio of 8.5 seems to show that he is on the right track for maintaining this kind of success that supported his superb senior season at OSU. If he does, in fact, maintain this sort of success; he could be promptly placed on the fast track to Toronto while earning a quick promotion to Double A New Hampshire this season. Although eventually, the best-case scenario would be for Boyd to continue his success in a starting role on the Blue Jays; a worst-case scenario would seem to suggest that his deceptive delivery has the potential to be allow him to be solid left-handed reliever out of the bullpen. Either way, I’m sure there will be a lot of intrigued eyes watching his next start against the Brevard County Manatees this Saturday in Viera, Florida.