28. Bret Boswell (175 points, 21 ballots)
Bret Boswell has emerged as a potential impact prospect from origins outside of the top few rounds of the draft, a welcome development for the Rockies. The 8th rounder from 2017 out of Texas hadn’t produced big numbers for most of his time in college, but by the time he was drafted as a senior Boswell had started to be seen as a prospect after succeeding in the California Collegiate League, a summer wood bat league for college players. The lefty hitting, righty throwing infielder signed for $162.8k and kept up his success with wood bats. Initially assigned to Short Season A Boise in the pitcher-friendly Northwest League, “The Boz” hit .293/.339/.515 with 24 extra base hits in 249 plate appearances (136 wRC+) against pitching that was about a year younger on average while playing second base. That performance set Boswell up well as a player to watch entering his full season debut with Asheville in 2018.
Against competition that again was over a year younger than him on average, Boswell proved his short season prowess was no fluke. In 413 plate appearances in the South Atlantic League, Boswell posted a .288/.331/.496 triple slash line with 17 homers among his 41 extra base hits. His elevated K% (24.9%) and low BB% (5.1%) at the level are concerning in combination with his above average age, but that’s still a 133 wRC+ performance. What really launched Boswell onto this edition of the PuRPs list though was what he did upon his promotion to High A in late July.
Though he was still about 0.7 years older than league average in a very hitter friendly California League environment, Boswell’s tremendous .322/.388/.636 line with 10 homers among 16 extra base hits in just 135 plate appearances stands out from the crowd (169 wRC+). No doubt, there are caveats to consider. Boswell was a bit fortunate to achieve those results (.406 BABIP), his home park was especially friendly (.368/.424/.789 at home), he feasted on right-handers (1.214 OPS) while struggling against lefties (.542 OPS), and his K% (30.4%) was still high. Nonetheless it’s impressive for an up-the-middle defender (Boswell split time between second and third base) to post that kind of line.
Here’s some video of Boswell courtesy of 2080 Baseball from March and June of 2018:
Boswell possesses more raw power than the typical middle infielder. He may strike out too much to ever hit for a high average, but he could deliver 15 homers per season from the left side of the plate. He’ll flash above-average speed but it plays more as average on the bases.
Erratic at third base and shortstop earlier in his college career, Boswell committed just two miscues in 60 games at second base as a redshirt junior. He has the solid arm strength and enough range to play on the left side of the infield, enhancing his utility value if he can’t make it as a regular.
Notably, that evaluation gives Boswell good speed and fielding prowess (55 Arm, 55 Field, 50 Run) while tagging him with 45 grade Hit and Power tools. Now I’m not sure how much of his performance in 2018 was luck, but I reckon that evaluators might see Boswell’s 27 homers and .296 batting average in 2018 and question whether those tool grades still apply.
As I’ve stated before, defensive utility weighs heavily in my evaluation of prospects. The 24-year old Boswell has shown he can play pretty much anywhere on the dirt so far, even faking it at shortstop in a pinch. That combined with the prowess he’s shown at the plate so far make Boswell an intriguing prospect in the system. Three main factors stopped me from ranking him higher on my personal list and garnering a higher future value evaluation from me: Boswell’s age thus far relative to competition, his struggles against lefties, and his high K/low BB percentages at lower levels.
In the end, I ranked Boswell 24th on my personal ballot with a 35+ FV, albeit as a strong contender to move into the 40 or even 45 FV tier with continued success at higher levels in 2019. Given his small sample size performance at Lancaster in 2018, the Rockies could have Boswell begin the year with Double-A Hartford or elect to have him repeat in High A to start the year. My money is on Double-A, which, given continued success on his part, would set Boswell up as a potential Major League contributor as soon as 2020.