Triston Casas was not the only infield prospect the Red Sox took out of a Florida high school in the 2018 amateur draft.
20 rounds after picking Casas, Boston nabbed George Jenkins High School infielder Brandon Howlett with their 21st overall selection. At that time, the Lakeland, Fla. native was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 399 draft-eligible prospect and was committed to play college baseball at Florida State University.
Rather than move ahead with his commitment to the Seminoles, though, Howlett signed with the Sox for $185,000 that June and quickly debuted in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League just days after putting pen to paper.
After posting a .930 OPS in 39 GCL contests, the then-18-year-old earned a late-season promotion to Low-A Lowell and put himself in a good position entering his first full year of pro ball.
Coming into the 2019 campaign, Howlett was regarded by Baseball America as the 14th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. In spite of those lofty expectations placed upon a teenager’s shoulders, the right-handed hitting third baseman struggled to the tune of a .231/.341/.356 slash line across 113 games (465 plate appearances) with Class-A Greenville.
As a result of a .698 OPS in 2019, Howlett’s stock took a bit of a hit heading into 2020. He, like a majority of minor-leaguers, then fell victim to the fact that the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of receiving an invite to the Sox’ alternate training site that summer, Howlett was left to continue developing on his own time. He did just that, but apparently ‘failed to impress’ at the team’s instructional league that fall.
On the heels of a lost year in 2020, Howlett fell off Baseball America’s Red Sox top 30 prospects rankings entirely last spring. He once again broke camp with Greenville, though the Drive had since moved up from the Class-A to High-A level.
This time around with the Drive, things were different. In 96 games, Howlett batted .253/.345/.469 (117 wRC+) to go along with 19 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs, 57 RBIs, 62 runs scored, two stolen bases, 44 walks, and 136 strikeouts over 414 plate appearances. He also missed a week of action from late June through early July due to a concussion.
From August 22 on, Howlett closed out his bounce-back season by slashing a robust .307/.373/.587 and putting up 151 wRC+ over the final 19 games (83 plate appearances) he played in.
Among those in the High-A East who made at least 400 trips to the plate last year, Howlett ranked 11th in doubles, 10th in home runs, sixth in walk rate (10.6%), seventh in on-base percentage, seventh in slugging percentage, eighth in OPS (.815), ninth in isolated power (.217), and eighth in wRC+, per FanGraphs.
Defensively, Howlett has only played third base throughout his pro career and that remained to be the case in 2021. The 22-year-old logged 745 2/3 innings at the hot corner and committed a total of 17 errors there.
Based off his most recent Baseball America scouting report from over the summer, there seems to be some concern about whether Howlett will be able to remain at third base in the long-term. That said, he did end 2021 as the publication’s 23rd-ranked Red Sox prospect.
Seeing how he found success at High-A last year, it was somewhat interesting to realize that Howlett was not among the group of minor-leaguers who took part in the Sox’ Winter Warm-Up minicamp in Fort Myers last month.
Regardless of that, though, Howlett is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season with Double-A Portland. The 6-foot-1, 205 pounder does not turn 23 until September and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time next winter.
If the Red Sox do not want to risk losing Howlett in the Rule 5 Draft, they would need to add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline. That very well could end up being the case if he excels with the Sea Dogs this year.
(Picture of Brandon Howlett via the Greenville Drive’s Instagram account)