Matt Boyd: The Detroit Tigers “X” Factor

Matt Boyd has done everything he needed to do to earn a spot in the Tigers rotation. And for that, he was rewarded. When the Tigers leave Lakeland and head north for their Opening Day tilt with division foe, the Chicago White Sox, Matt Boyd will be on the roster as a starting pitcher.

Boyd was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, when David Price headed north of the border and helped the Jays in their playoff run. The moment Boyd entered the Tigers organization, he became the 7th best prospect. Since the acquisition, he has started a handful of games for the Tigers (10 in 2015, 18 in 2016), and has a 7-9 record with a 5.23 ERA, according to Baseball-Reference.

But don't let the numbers from a few Major League starts fool you, the Tigers youngster can deal.

Boyd brings four pitches — fastball, slider, curveball, and change-up — to the table from the left-hand side. According to FanGraphs, his fastball sits in the lower-to-mid 90s, and he uses it 59.3% of the time. In 2016, he developed a cutter, thrown around 87.3 MPH, that if he can master will be devasting for right-handed hitters.

Coming into the spring, no one (including Brad Ausmus and Al Avila) knew who would be the man when it came to our fifth starter. There were seven guys competing for five spots. The top three of Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, and Michael Fulmer were pretty much a lock; which left Daniel Norris, Boyd (both pieces of the Price trade), Mik Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez to compete for the final two spots.

Of those above-mentioned names, Boyd pitched the best — that includes the aforementioned “locks.” This spring, he's pitched 21.2 innings, with a 2.49 ERA, and has averaged a strikeout per inning. If this is a sign of what this season holds in store for Matt Boyd, people will be talking about him for sure by the time the end of the season rolls around.

With the announcement that Anibal Sanchez would be making the roster and placed in the bullpen, the pitching rotation came into a much clearer light. Starting Opening Day is Justin Verlander, (most likely) followed by Jordan Zimmermann, then Daniel Norris. When the Tigers take the field at Comerica Park for the first time this season, Michael Fulmer will be on the hill. But the next day, Game No. 5, it will be Matt Boyd's turn. Let's hope he keeps turning heads.