Joe Boyle deserves a spot in the Oakland Athletics' opening day rotation

Athletics' righty Joe Boyle looks to continue his spring dominance this afternoon vs the Diamondbacks
Mar 6, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA;  Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Joe Boyle (35) throws to Los
Mar 6, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Joe Boyle (35) throws to Los / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics are set to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks this afternoon at 1:05 pm PST. Joe Boyle will look to continue his run of dominance and set his eyes on the open spot in the A's opening day rotation.

Boyle will be making his fourth start of the spring. He currently has a 2.16 ERA in his 8.1 innings. Perhaps most importantly, he's walked just three batters, good for a 9.7% BB rate. That mark just about matches the figure he posted in his cup of coffee in the majors in 2023, a mark that helped him find unexpected success.

Look no further than this to see how well Boyle's pitches are working right now. His breaking stuff is getting plenty of whiffs, he has upper 90's velocity, and his big 6'7" frame allows him to bear down on hitters by releasing the ball closer to the plate than most pitchers.

Boyle's biggest issue in the minors was his inability to control his pitches. He ran walk rates near 20% at multiple minor league levels, an unsustainable number for any aspiring pitcher. After coming to Oakland from Cincinnati, he flipped a switch and hasn't looked back.

It's still a small sample size, of course. Boyle has thrown just 24 innings with this level of success. But despite that, the Athletics have a good handful of question marks on the pitching staff.

Injuries to other Athletics' pitchers have created an opportunity for Boyle

Ken Waldichuk is recovering from elbow surgery and won't be available on opening day. Luis Medina is currently dealing with a knee sprain and his status for opening day is in question. Lefty Kyle Muller is keeping the pressure on, posting a 1.13 ERA and a 32% strikeout rate in his three spring appearances.

For now, the race seems down to Boyle and Muller for that 5th and final spot, assuming that all four of JP Sears, Paul Blackburn, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling are penned into the rotation for opening day.

It's not unrealistic to think Mark Kotsay might shoot for a 6-man rotation with both Boyle and Muller getting starts and maximizing rest for the other four. It wouldn't be the worst idea as the group isn't the most reliable in terms of health and innings pitched.

Regardless of whether Kotsay goes with a 5 or 6 man rotation, Boyle has earned the chance to prove himself in Oakland right off the rip. Muller struggled mightily in 2023 so despite his strong spring training numbers, he's already gotten the opportunity and squandered it.

Muller may recover and become a viable major league starter again but if the Athletics want to prioritize their pitchers based on potential, it seems imperative that Boyle gets the first crack and everyone else can follow behind him.