24. Bret Boswell (88 points, 12 ballots)
While Bret Boswell’s selection to the 40-man roster earlier this offseason by the Rockies caught some observers off-guard, it makes sense within the context of how the team has prioritized his development so far. The 26-year-old lefty hitter, righty thrower has moved steadily through the minors, never producing offensively at a rate below league average and generally emerging as a potential impact prospect from origins outside of the top few rounds of the draft.
The 8th rounder from 2017 ($162.8k bonus) out of Texas hadn’t produced big numbers for most of his time in college — due perhaps to a wrist injury — but was highly recruited out of high school. Boswell raised his prospect status after succeeding in the California Collegiate League — a summer wood bat league for college players — between his junior and senior years. 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+, though he was about a year older than league average) while playing second base.
In 2018, Boswell repeated that level of performance in Low-A Asheville (.288/.331/.496, 17 HRs, 133 wRC+ in 413 PAs), though he showed an elevated K% (25%) and low BB% (5%). He was promoted to High-A Lancaster in July of that year and, even in one of the friendliest hitting environments in the minor leagues and as a player slightly older than league average, stood out offensively. In just 135 plate appearances, Boswell hit a tremendous .322/.388/.636 line with 10 homers among 16 extra base hits (169 wRC+). No doubt, there were 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, those remain stellar numbers for a player splitting time between second and third base defensively.
Assigned to more offense-neutral Double-A Hartford entering 2019 and finally playing at a league average age, Boswell found it tougher sledding. In 404 PAs, he hit just .219/.290/.397 with 15 HRs, while his K% was still high (30%, compared to 8% BB%) — still a 101 wRC+, but certainly a step down from 2018. To his credit, Boswell did increase his OPS every month and posted similar numbers against lefties (.663 OPS) and righties (.695 OPS).
The Rockies thought enough of this performance to send Boswell to the prestigious Arizona Fall League in September 2019, where he hit an anemic .098/.196/.122 in 46 PAs. This didn’t deter Colorado in 2020, as Boswell was assigned to Major League Spring Training, then to the alternate site during the season and ultimately onto the 40-man roster.
Boswell provides good defensive utility and a potential league average bat. Though he has spent time mostly at second and third base as a professional (and had time at shortstop in college), most recently he was getting more reps in center field.
Here’s some video of Boswell courtesy of 2080 Baseball from March and June of 2018:
Though he’s not currently on any top prospect lists, Boswell was 29th on MLB.com’s top 30 list in 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 — though it must be said that he popped 27 homers in 2018 and another 15 in 2019, so that last number might need to be updated.
As I’ve stated before, defensive utility weighs heavily in my evaluation of prospects. Boswell has shown he can play pretty much anywhere on the dirt so far plus in the outfield, even faking it at shortstop in a pinch. That combined with the prowess he’s shown at the plate and his 40-man roster status make Boswell an intriguing prospect in the system. Four main factors stopped me from ranking him higher on my personal list and garnering a higher future value evaluation from me: his age relative to competition, his struggles against lefties, his poor performance in the AFL, and his high K/low BB percentages.
In the end, I ranked Boswell 30th on my personal ballot with a 35+ FV. He’s a high probability MLB player given his defensive utility and power production, though he’ll likely begin 2021 in Triple-A, with a mid to late year MLB cameo possible if things go well there.