The MLB Draft has a staggering 40 rounds, but most of the “good” prospects are off the board pretty early in the draft. That said, every now and again you find a late-round gem, and the Red Sox appear to have found their diamond in the rough in 19-year old Brandon Howlett. Despite his 21st-round selection, the third base prospect has already climbed up the Red Sox rankings after just 44 games in the minors. Can Howlett continue his climb and establish himself as one of the best prospects in the farm system?
Red Sox Prospects: Brandon Howlett
Howlett was actually one of the more coveted high school prospects in the nation, but a down senior year caused his draft stock to plummet. Already committed to Florida State, the Red Sox took a chance with Howlett, drafting him with the 640th pick and signing him away from the college scene.
After one year, that move has paid dividends. Howlett appeared in 44 games between rookie ball and the short-season Lowell Spinners, compiling an impressive .289/.402/.513 slash line with an accompanying 157 wRC+. He struck out an acceptable 22.3% of the time while walking in an impressive 15.2% of his plate appearances.
Howlett showed the ability to hit for both average and power, as evidenced by his impressive .915 OPS. While his numbers were somewhat inflated by a .355 BABIP, the grand majority of his numbers look sustainable. Basically, Howlett played like the impressive prospect from 2016.
Howlett isn’t quite as impressive with the glove, but he’s capable of getting the job done. He doesn’t have much speed, but his reflexes make him a capable defender at third base. Likewise, Howlett has a serviceable arm capable of making every throw he’d need to make from the hot corner. He has soft hands and doesn’t make too many errors.
What To Work On
As far as 19-year old prospects go, Brandon Howlett is ahead of the game. His approach at the plate is well beyond his years, and he’s serviceable with the glove. There really isn’t a glaring hole in his game, at least at this point in his career.
The closest thing to a hole in Howlett’s game is his lack of speed. Howlett has below average speed, which does limit his ceiling as a fielder and a baserunner. There isn’t much Howlett can do about this, but he’ll need to work on ensuring his other defensive skills stay tuned. Howlett’s lack of speed means that he could only play first or third as a pro, and staying at third is the preferable option.
The biggest thing Howlett needs to do in 2019
Brandon Howlett is currently stuck behind a long line of third base prospects. Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, and Triston Casas are clearly ahead of him in the rankings, while players like Danny Diaz and Nicholas Northcut also have promising futures.
Howlett probably won’t ever be as good as Devers or Chavis, but he theoretically could be the third-best out of the bunch. He can hit for power and average, his strikeout rate is manageable, and his walk rate is well above the average 19-year old.
If Howlett continues along his current trajectory, he definitely has an MLB future. Whether that future is with the Red Sox is yet to be determined, but he will find his way onto a professional roster. That said, he’s still young and needs more time to climb the ranks. Look for Howlett to make his debut sometime in 2021 or 2022.