The Dodgers need bullpen help, which is no secret. The thing is, where do they get it from? The bargain bin or proven sources? How about a combination of both? The Dodgers could find that in Brad Boxberger.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) July 2, 2019
After the Kansas City Royals designated him for assignment on Sunday, I can guarantee you many teams are lining up for a chance at a minor league pact for his services.
To get an accurate mental picture of what exactly Brad Boxberger is at this stage in his career, let’s start four years ago:
In 2015, Brad Boxberger was an All-Star. He finished the season with a 3.71 ERA and 3.92 ERA to go with a fantastic 27.1 K% and 41 saves for the Tampa Bay Rays. Then, he got hurt.
2016 saw Boxberger only toss 24 1/3 innings to a 4.81 ERA and 6.17 DRA. Yikes. However, it was a small sample size and he wholly deserves the benefit of the doubt considering his excellent track record prior to getting hurt, the injury itself, and the small nature of the sample size. He rebounded in 2017, though.
2017 was about as good of a rebound Boxberger could have had albeit in another small sample size of 29 1/3 innings. He held a 3.38 ERA and 2.89 DRA. Pretty good. He even held an elite 33.1 K%.
In 2018, he became the closer for the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks and picked up 32 saves and a 4.39 ERA. The earned run average is not great, but it is important to note that with a new team, Boxberger changed his usage rates in a way that were not conducive to success. In the first half, Boxberger’s ERA was 3.06, but in the second half, it rose to 7.00.
Boxberger is seeing once again: bad luck.
Since May 1st, the only pitchers on the Royals staff that posted a lower xwOBA than Brad Boxberger were Ian Kennedy and Kevin McCarthy. In that time, Boxberger ranked in the top third of all major league relievers.
— Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner) June 26, 2019
Although Boxberger has gotten ‘hit around’ this season, he is in a very good class of relief pitching. He stands in the 95th percentile in allowed exit velocity and the 68th percentile in hard hit rate, according to Baseball Savant. For reference, Kenley Jansen is allowing a 98th percentile exit velocity on the season. Julio Urias a 99th percentile. Pretty good.
There is reason to believe Boxberger could thrive in a setting that needs him and learning from one of the best pitching coaches in the business in Rick Honeycutt. In no way, shape, or form is Boxberger going to be the savior of the ‘pen. We should hunt for bigger fish. Still, he is someone to keep an eye on. There is a great deal of potential with someone who saved 32 games as recently as last year.