Rays News

Brad Boxberger: Looking Back, Moving Forward

By Drew Jenkins
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Prior to the year, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Logan Forsythe, Brad Boxberger, Matt Andriese, and Maxx Tissenbaum from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn. Of that group, Boxberger was not even the headliner, and while he had shown potential, he was seen as a bit of work in progress. Little did the Rays know that Boxberger would turn out to be one of the few bright spots of  rough 2014 season.

Boxberger did not even start the year with the Rays, instead being sent to Triple-A Durham to hone in some command issues. It did not take long for Boxberger to find his way on the big league roster, though, as he came up to make an appearance for the Rays on April 14th. After going up and down between the majors and the minors a couple of times, Boxberger came back up to the big leagues for good on May 6th.

Boxberger never looked back, and he went on to throw to a 2.37 ERA in 64.2 innings. If you take out a rough four game stretch to end the year that was likely the product of fatigue, that number lowers all the way to 1.89. Boxberger also struck out an incredible 14.5 batters per nine innings thanks to his plus fastball-changeup combination, and opposing hitters slashed just .155/.237/.301 against him. He also walked just 2.8 batters per nine, making significant progress with his control and command. Boxberger surpassed all expectations given to him, and all of sudden he was able to turn from Triple-A reserve player into a legitimate late-innings option.

Boxberger did benefit from a low .227 BABIP against this season. Part of that can simply be attributed to his stuff being so great, but a BABIP that low indicates at least some luck. Even if it remains well below league average, it is likely to increase some, and Boxberger will have to adjust to not let it significantly affect him. That said, his HR/FB ratio was a bit high at 18.8%, which indicates he was a bit unlucky with flyballs leaving the park. Moving forward that should go down, and he should allow a few less home runs, even if he does allow a few more hits.

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In 2015, Boxberger will return as one of the Rays’ most reliable relief options. The Rays’ bullpen is a bit in flux heading into next season, but they can certainly rest easy knowing that Boxberger and Jake McGee will be around to lock down the 8th and 9th innings. Expect the Rays to once again use the right-handed Boxberger and the left-handed McGee to get the best matchups possible in the 8th and 9th innings.

Boxberger still does have a bit left to prove despite his great year. First and foremost, Boxberger needs to show his new-found command and control are for real. They certainly looked the part in 2014, but Boxberger had struggled in those areas in the past, and he needs to show that the improvement was not a fluke. He will also have to work on adjusting when his aforementioned low BABIP inevitably increases to at least some extent.

All in all, Boxberger turned into a pleasant surprise for the Rays in 2014, and he makes the deal with the Padres look that much better. Though Boxberger has to prove his 2014 was not a fluke, he was so dominant that you cannot help but be excited about his role in the Rays’ bullpen moving forward.

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