Sleepers do not have to lose their meaning after your draft is done and the season has begun. Everyone hunts the waiver wire to find that replacement for an early injury or a late round pick that has you frustrated. A pre-draft sleeper may still be hanging around to be picked up, or a player’s early performance could peak your interest. These posts will reveal those players that are hanging without a team that you’ll want to grab before anyone else notices.
Matt Boyd was a pitcher on shortlist of players I considered writing about prior to the start of the season. Mostly going undrafted, Boyd stood out as a potential deep sleeper as he’s been gradually starting more games over the last few seasons. Many managers will not find his 5+ ERA or his being a Tiger enticing. He doesn’t have a sexy K or BB rate either. Despite those concerns, Boyd may have been one of the unluckiest pitchers last season. He’s only started two games so far this season, but so far he looks to be building off of last year’s basics…
Last season, Boyd pitched a career high starts and innings. His ERA was concerning at 5.27. However, he has two specific numbers that are a notable combination for bad luck. His BABIP finished at .330 while his LOB% (Left on Base %) was a low 68.7%. Of all pitchers with 130 or more innings pitched last season (97 pitchers total), Boyd finished 10th lowest in BABIP and 14th lowest in LOB%. The BABIP may not be as unlucky as it first seems. He allowed a high LD rate at 22.4% last season. This rate was up substantially from previous seasons. He will need to get that down to let his defense do better work. Furthermore, if Boyd can get more situational outs, his LOB% should rise and keep more runs from scoring. However, Boyd should see some improvements in both of these regardless of his own performance improvements this season.
Through his first two games in 2018, Boyd has shown strides to get more soft contact and keep hitters off balance. Interestingly, Boyd has started the season throwing a few MPH slower than his previous seasons. In his first game, he used his fastball less and relied more heavily on his slider (31.8% compared to 11% in previous seasons). This change in pitch selection has so far resulted in more swinging strikes (up to 12.5% from 9.9% last year). He did not produce many strikeouts though. He brought 12 at bats to two strike counts and was only able to finish off one.
In Boyd’s second match-up, he faced Cleveland. However, he went 7 IP and allowed one run on a home run by Jose Ramirez in the first inning. He allowed only two other hits for the remaining 6 IP. Boyd got more strikeouts with 4 but still is not seeing a K rate consistent to his mid 7 K/9 of last season. He brought another 10 at bats to two strike counts. Additionally, Boyd has consistently does not allow ground balls. Despite his aversion to getting hitters to ground out, in this Cleveland game, he produced 42.1% ground balls. That is remarkably high for Boyd. His first game did not show those kind of numbers but it is something to keep an eye on. Boyd also has kept his walks down. He has one walk over his 13 IP. Last year, Boyd’s BB/9 was 3.53 but that was up higher than his usual which is closer to 3. That is still too high and Boyd has showed control so far this season to counteract that.
Expect more of these at bats to result in strikeouts in upcoming games. Continue to watch Boyd’s pitch use as well. If Boyd has developed a stronger slider that he uses more, his effectiveness may drastically change. This use of off speed stuff has produced significant soft contact. Through his first two games, 30% of his contact has been soft. Additionally, his pitch speed may continue to get back to normal as the season progresses. Boyd is worth a pick up if you are scouring the waiver wire for a starting pitcher replacement.