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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Brandon Howlett looks for a bounce back

It was a disappointing first full season, but certainly not a disqualifying one.

Brandon Howlett
Kelly O’Connor;

As we continue to get closer to the end of our prospect voting — I am stopping at 30 as the participation, understandably, seems to be dropping and I don’t know that it will be sustainable past 30 — we also continue our little run of position players. At spot number 27 we have our fifth position player in the last six votes, with this round going to Brandon Howlett after he snagged 41 percent of the vote.

Howlett was something of a sleeper prospect down in the high school level playing in Florida, but he was starting to gain a little bit of momentum with the way he started that season. However, he started to falter as the season went on and then had a really rough time at the plate in a showcase event in front of a lot of scouts, which put him down draft boards and opened the possibility of him deciding to rebuild some value by playing at Florida State. The Red Sox, however, swiped the third baseman with their 21st round pick in that 2018 draft and offered him a $185,000 signing bonus that he signed.

Not too long after getting him in the organization the Red Sox realized that there were some vision issues that Howlett was dealing with that may have been holding him back a bit in high school and led to some of the questions regarding his hit tool and ability to make contact. They fixed the issue with some new contacts, and the returns were pretty much immediate and basically exclusively wonderful. In that first summer as a pro, Howlett absolutely dominated the GCL, hitting .307/.405/.526, earning himself a late-season run in Lowell to close out an extremely up-and-down 2018 overall for him.

Despite being a later round high school pick the year before and only entering his age-19 season, the Red Sox were confident in Howlett’s ability to adjust on the fly as well as his overall talent and pushed him up to Greenville to make his full-season debut. It wasn’t an outrageous decision, but it was certainly aggressive. Unfortunately, it didn’t really pan out. There were stretches through the year where Howlett showed what he is capable of, but for the most part he simply was beaten by more advanced pitching than he’d ever seen. Overall, the third baseman hit .231/.341/.356, striking out over 30 percent of the time.

So, for all the helium Howlett had been experiencing following the revelation with his contacts, absolutely tearing up the GCL and then getting the vote of confidence from the organization with a push to Greenville, he hit a wall in 2019. That said, it’s far from the end of the world and there are still reasons to be excited here. For one thing, even as he was clearly struggling with the pitching, which was evident by the strikeout rate as well as the low Isolated Power (SLG - AVG), he still showed a strong apporoach. Howlett walked 12 percent of the time. Granted, some of that is because low minors pitching is just wild in general, but he’s always had a strong approach and there’s little reason to expect that to change.

That approach should help alleviate some of the swing and miss in his game, which happens to be the biggest question mark. While there wasn’t a ton of power on display last year, he’s still a strong dude and the extra-base hits and home runs are going to come at some point. The amount he can tap into it relies on making consistent contact, something that he is capable of but struggled with last year. The good news on this front is that the swing isn’t one that will necessarily prevent consistent contact without major adjustments. Defensively, there are some who question his ability to stick at the hot corner, but for now I get the sense that the consensus is that he should be able to be solid there, though don’t expect any Gold Gloves.

Howlett was one of the players I was most interested in following if there was baseball this year as he feels like he’s sort of in a no-man’s land in terms of prospect value at this point. There is still that shine from 2018 that means he can’t be written off, but it’s not so shiny that he’s really in the conversation as even a second-tier prospect in the system. I feel like the next season we see from him, whenever that may be, is going to push him fairly significantly one way or the other. I’d expect that season to at least start with a second try in Greenville.

Here is our full list so far:

1. Jeter Downs

2. Triston Casas

3. Bobby Dalbec

4. Bryan Mata

5. Noah Song

6. Gilberto Jimenez

7. Jay Groome

8. Jarren Duran

9. Thad Ward

10. Tanner Houck

11. Matthew Lugo

12. C.J. Chatham

13. Connor Wong

14. Nick Decker

15. Cameron Cannon

16. Marcus Wilson

17. Aldo Ramirez

18. Brayan Bello

19. Ryan Zeferjahn

20. Chris Murphy

21. Chih-Jung Liu

22. Bryan Gonzalez

23. Antoni Flores

24. Durbin Feltman

25. Brainer Bonaci

26. Pedro Castellanos

27. Brandon Howlett

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number two. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...