Peoria, Ariz. — Rod Boykin produced the best season of his career in 2017 when what was supposed to be a temporary promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore to fill in for injured center fielder Michael Gettys suddenly put him on the prospect map.
Boykin, 22, hit .314/.376/.529 with 20 extra-base hits in 43 games to go along with seven stolen bases in eight attempts.
His .905 OPS was a 200 point jump from his previous high with the Eugene Emeralds in 2014.
“I just kept working and sticking to my routine,” said Boykin at the end of Spring Training. “Earlier in the year, I was struggling with velocity. So I went into the cages and started to hit off of the velocity machine and things began to pick up.”
Boykin was selected in the twelfth round of the 2013 draft out of Edgewood Academy in Montgomery, Alabama where he was known for his ability as a wide receiver as much for his baseball ability.
As a senior, he caught 70 passes for a state record 1,529 yards during his team’s state title run, but despite an offer to play both football and baseball at Alabama State, he signed within a day of the Padres drafting him.
“I was pretty much a baseball player that played football,” he told USA Today High School Sports in June of 2013. “I was pretty good at both sports, but baseball was always my dream ever since I was little.”
However, the transition to playing professional baseball wasn’t the easiest even for a premium athlete of his caliber.
“In high school, I took both sports seriously but at the same time playing two can take away how much you can develop,” said Boykin, who struggled in his first year in full-season ball with Fort Wayne hitting .187/.275/.242 in 2016.
But just “sticking to baseball,” as he put it, began to pay off in the second half of last year.
Turning the Corner
“Getting some success last year really helped me to believe in my routine. Also putting on some good weight since I was drafted helped me to drive the ball better,” Boykin said of his now 190-pound frame, 30 pounds more than when he showed up in 2013.
“I also have a better outlook mentally. In the past when I had bad games, it would carry over for the next few games. Now when I have a bad game or bad at-bat I try to learn what I can and move on from it.
“It is much easier to say you are going to do it than to actually do it. I try to think what I can do to help my team on defense or what I will do at the next at-bat.”
With experience comes a better idea of what you can and can’t do on the field. Although he put up the best power numbers of his career with the Storm, Boykin also realizes what makes him a valuable player,
“Just making solid contact, if I can do that good things will happen. I think for me to be the player that I want to be, making solid contact gives me a chance.”
Boykin has the ability to play all three outfield positions and as one would expect from a former Division I recruit at wide receiver, he is one of the faster players in the system.
“Yes, but my favorite is being in center. I don’t have a big say so over where I’m going to play, and I don’t control it, so wherever they want me to play, I’ll play.
“Except catching. I’m not doing that.”