When the Tampa Bay Rays selected outfielder Ryan Boldt in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2016 MLB Draft, it was a payoff of the bet made on himself three years earlier.
The Boston Red Sox selected the left-handed swinging Boldt in 22nd round (653rd overall) in the 2013 draft, but his desire to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was too strong. Boston flying Boldt down in an attempt persuade to sign was futile — he knew what he wanted to do.
DRaysBay had an opportunity to speak with Ryan Boldt last season about whether or not he regrets the decision to turn down the Red Sox.
“No, not at all,” Boldt said, “I’m totally happy with my decision. The three years at Nebraska were the best of my life and I grew up a lot as a person, as a baseball player, and I learned a lot.”
Boldt, 22, spent three productive seasons at UNL, finishing his collegiate career a .314/.385/.420 hitter with 82 runs batted in and 36 stolen bases. Speed, defense, and on-base skills comprise the Red Wing, Minnesota, native’s game. But at a certain point, baseball success was far from a guarantee.
As a 10-year-old, Boldt suffered a broken left elbow which put his athletic future in doubt. While he recovered and went on to be a part of Red Wing High School’s baseball team, his troublesome left arm required additional repairs before he emerged as a must-have prospect.
“Just the love of baseball,” Boldt said of what got him through the injuries. “I was obviously blessed with a lot of gifts on the baseball field…as far as being athletic. I try to use those to the best of my ability and just try to get better day in and day out.”
The decision was near: college or the pros? Boldt was making a solid case for both. He was named the most valuable player of the Perfect Game High School All-American Classic and was a member of the gold medal-winning United States national baseball team in the 2012 18U Baseball World Championship.
As a Nebraska Cornhusker, Boldt evolved into a dynamic prospect; he made the 2015 Cape Cod All-Star team with the Bourne Braves and was on the Golden Spikes Award watch list for 2016, an honor given to the best amateur baseball player in the country.
“It’s obviously a special honor to be announced in the middle of the season [for the award],” Boldt said. “There’s a lot of great guys who get the award and don’t get the award so it’s good to be part of the company.”
Boldt joined the short-season Class-A Hudson Valley Renegades and spent the year as the team’s primary center fielder. His struggles with the bat carried over from his final weeks at Nebraska as he slashed just .218/.280/.276 with 15 RBIs in 43 games. Boldt’s base running also struggled as he was caught stealing nine times in 17 attempts.
There were still flashes of brilliance, like his July 21, 2016, performance against the Vermont Lake Monsters. Boldt went 2-for-5 with first and only home run of the season and two stolen bases — showing off his aforementioned gifts on the field.
Even when his bat struggles, Boldt knows the way he wants to impact the game.
“I like to use my speed…get on base, try to steal bases and score runs,” he said. “That’s kind of the biggest thing….and run down balls in the outfield.”
Boldt is currently ranked as the Rays’ 17th-best prospect by MLB.com, showing that his poor numbers in his first season did not detract from the potential of his skills. As he progresses, the Rays may have their next speedy, defensive-minded outfielder on their hands.