As we continue to profile the most underrated Mets prospect at each position on the diamond, we stumble upon a name you might find familiar: Jayce Boyd. Drafted out of Florida State in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, all he's done in his pro career is flat-out hit.
A bit too slow for the hot corner, Boyd profiles as an excellent defender at first base. He backed up this reputation in 2013, ranking as the best defensive first baseman in the Class-A South Atlantic League. Boyd's batting average and glove are not holding him back from attaining legitimate prospect status. Rather, analysts and fans have dismissed the 2012 draftee due to seemingly mediocre power that will not allow Boyd to become the stereotypical middle-of-the-order first baseman.
However, it is too early to deliver a verdict on Boyd's power ability after just three professional seasons. Baseball America liked what they saw from Boyd in batting practice, noting his "plus power" that would likely develop into major league average in the future. Furthermore, BA profiles Boyd as a player that "emphasizes contact" and does "an expert of job of working pitchers for a fastball he can hammer to the gaps." The righty's gap power and advanced approach were evident last season in Binghamton, when he reached base in 38.2% of his at-bats, posted a .365 wOBA, and created 26% more runs than the average ballplayer.
Concerns about Boyd's over-the-fence power (or lack thereof) do seem valid. He only knocked eight home runs in 119 games last season. However, Boyd compensates for his lackluster home run totals with an excellent batting eye. Last year, he walked at an 11% clip and struck out only 14% percent of the time. In 2013, the Florida native actually had more walks than strikeouts for the Savannah Sand Gnats.
Ten years ago, I may have believed the claim that Boyd's lack of power would restrict him from developing into a major league starting first baseman. But in the new power-starved MLB, Boyd's contact ability is more suited for first base than it may appear. The median 2014 National League first baseman (Adam Laroche) posted an .817 OPS. Boyd's career minor league OPS stands at a not-too-distant .808. Obviously, minor league numbers do not directly translate to the bigs. Still, a player like Boyd, who has had no trouble swiftly advancing levels thus far in his pro career, could very realistically develop into a solid big league contributor in the near future.
Considering Boyd's defensive prowess and contact-oriented approach, I can envision the 24-year-old ballplayer developing into a James Loney-type player a year or two down the road. Boyd's minor league numbers actually compare quite favorably to Loney's. So far, Boyd has batted three points higher than has the current Rays first baseman (.299 to .296), has reached base in two percent more of his at-bats (.382 to .363), and has averaged the same amount of home runs (seven) as Loney did per season during his MiLB career.
Boyd is no guarantee to achieve the same success as have atypical first basemen like Loney. But the mere fact that Boyd could realistically replicate a longtime major league first baseman's production should warrant the former Seminole more prospect consideration. Boyd's chances for success improve even more when you consider how pitching dominant (and therefore offensively depressed) the league has become. It may be the perfect time for a prospect like Boyd to emerge as a future big league regular; after all, the average first baseman's production is as low as it has ever been in terms of power.
Couple a stellar defensive reputation with an advanced plate approach, a compact swing, and gap power, and Jayce Boyd is the easy choice for most underrated first base prospect in the Mets organization.