Joe Boyle was an intriguing MLB draft prospect as a high school senior out of North Oldham High in Kentucky in 2017.
But the right-handed hurler opted out of the draft and honored his commitment to the University of Notre Dame. The university offered Boyle the best combination of academics and athletics and his desire to “hopefully graduate from college before playing professional baseball” enticed him to bypass the draft as an 17-year-old, he said.
Now three years later, Boyle is draft-eligible and profiles as one of the top college arms in this year’s draft. Pro scouts project the 6-foot-7, 240-pound right-hander as an early-round pick in June due to his overpowering fastball that has topped out at 102 mph.
Despite the draft attention, Boyle has remained focused on his collegiate career and helping Notre Dame rebuild its baseball program under first-year coach Link Jarrett, Boyle said before the NCAA canceled the college baseball season March 12.
“I just love playing baseball,” Boyle said. “I know I have a really good opportunity in front of me. I know I throw very hard, so I hope I have the opportunity to play professional baseball after this year or after college. I think I just love playing it and am going to keep working hard and going as far as I can and hopefully make a career out of it.”
Boyle struggled at times with his command in his first three years at Notre Dame. In 2018, he appeared in eight games as a freshman but pitched just two innings, walking eight batters and allowing four runs while striking out one batter.
He had slightly better command as a sophomore last season. He recorded a 5.96 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 27 walked allowed in 25 2/3 innings.
This spring, he pitched in 8 1/3 innings, tallying 17 strikeouts and 13 walks allowed with a 3.24 ERA in six games.
Boyle is known for his elite fastball, which sits in the high-90s and regularly reaches triple digits. He also throws a slurvy slider that overpowers hitters and serves as an outpitch when hitters are sitting on his fastball.
The two-pitch mix allows him to generate a high percentage of strikeouts, even with his average command.
“I think the ability to strike someone out is my biggest strength,” Boyle said. “It’s useful having that ability to strike guys out because if I walk some guys or put a couple of guys on base, I can pitch my way around it.”
He currently is more of a two-pitch pitcher, as his changeup is a work in progress.
Besides working on his command, Boyle spent the offseason refining his changeup in the Cape Cod League in preparation for his junior season this spring.
He profiles as a reliever in pro ball but wants to at least develop his changeup into a consistent offering. Although Boyle sporadically threw his changeup this spring, he envisions it as a pitch that will allow him to generate ground balls against hitters who are timing up his fastball, he said.
“I think the key to developing the changeup is to make sure it doesn’t move and make it as straight as I can because right now I will throw it the right way and it’ll end up moving,” Boyle said.
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.