Austin Bossart Interview – 2017

This is the sixth in a series of interviews conducted by Steve Potter.

Minor League Spot Light: Austin Bossart

Austin Bossart was the Phillies 14th round draft pick in the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from O’Fallon High School in O’Fallon, Illinois where as a senior he led the baseball team to a 31-6 record and was a first team all state selection.

He went on to an outstanding four year career at Penn where he earned the Ivy League’s Co-Player of the year award in his senior season and was also a semi-finalist for the Johny Bench Award which goes to the top catcher in NCAA Division 1 Baseball. He led the Quakers in batting average at .358, hits (49), and OBP (.420) while recording 13 doubles, 4 home runs and 27 RBI’s. He was a .302 hitter for his four year NCAA career in 578 at bats with 11 home runs and 88 RBI’s, he even had 22 stolen bases!

In his first pro season he played in 37 games at short season Williamsport and hit .333 in 138 at bats, had 1 home run and 19 RBI’s with an OBP of .359. Last summer he split time between Low A Lakewood and High A Clearwater. In 30 games at Lakewood he hit .263 in 99 at bats with a .336 OBP, he was promoted to Clearwater on June 23rd and finished the season there playing in 18 games hitting .340 in 53 at bats with an OBP of .368. Austin appeared in 4 games in the prestigious Arizona Fall League to conclude the 2016 season.

(Editor’s note:  Austin was the catcher on July 10, 2016 when Drew Anderson, Will Morris, and Victor Arano combined to throw a no-hitter against the St. Lucie Mets.  Anderson was lifted after four innings due to a rain delay.  It was Anderson’s first start with Clearwater and Bossart’s fourth.  It was the first time he had caught all three pitchers in a game.)

Here are a few questions I recently asked him and his responses.

What was your favorite team growing up? Did that change at all while you attended Penn? Did you get a chance to go to any Phillies games while in school?

” My favorite team growing up was the St. Louis Cardinals mostly because I grew up 20 minutes outside of the city for most of my life. I got to watch some great baseball and even better players who I could look up to when I was a young baseball player. Once I got to Penn I couldn’t abandon my hometown team, but I did go to a few Phillies games during my time there. The ballpark is beautiful and the great fans make it such a fun atmosphere for baseball.”

I heard you also played Hockey in high school? What position? Any relatable skills to being a catcher in baseball?

” I was a defenseman when I played hockey throughout high school. Of course the hand eye coordination is relatable, but I think the greatest thing about hockey for me was the separation from baseball. It allowed me to grow as an athlete and a person, and I am convinced that it is one of the greatest reasons for my success today.”

Were you always a catcher or did you also play other positions at some point?

” I have always gravitated towards catcher. The gear always seemed cool to me as a kid, so whenever they needed someone to suit up I would volunteer. I played 3rd base and pitcher through high school as well, and I even got to play some right field in college summer ball one year.”

This is your third summer as a pro and second spring training, you were also here early this spring, could you detail a little the routine that catchers go thru in spring training? I often see you guys on the run from the back mounds to the fields in tandem with your pitchers.

“Catching is a very interesting position during spring training. It is always my job to be there for the pitchers whenever they may need me, whether it be to catch a bullpen or just a flat ground while they are playing catch. We usually start off with a lot of bullpens, but as games get started things settle into more of a routine. When you see us going from the back mounds to the game, that usually means we were scheduled to play in whatever inning that pitcher is entering the game.”

You’ve now spent time at three locations in your pro career, Williamsport, Lakewood and Clearwater, what stands out to you about each area in regards to playing venue?

” I have been very fortunate to play in each of those affiliates. They all have a wonderful staff that truly cares for the players that shuffle through year in and year out, and they all have top of the line facilities with amazing history.”

Who has had the biggest impact on you during your baseball career?

“I can’t single out one person, my entire family has been the biggest impact during my baseball career. They are the sole reason I am able to show up to the ballpark every day and do what I love with very few worries off the field. The sacrifices they make help me realize how fortunate I am, and it drives me to be not only the greatest baseball player, but the greatest person I can be every day.”

Talk a little about growing up in O’Fallon, where is it, small town?

“O’Fallon is a town about 20 minutes east of St. Louis in southern Illinois. Growing up there, I got a bit of the small town feel while still being able to experience a city. It is very cool that you can drive 20 minutes in one direction and be out in a beautiful open field and then drive 20 minutes in another direction and be in the heart of a city. Most of my family lives in the area as well, so whenever I am home we are able to have family get togethers and enjoy time together.”

Attending an Ivy League school the academic aspect must have been an equally challenging task to baseball, what was your major and how did you balance baseball and academics?

“I majored in Economics with minors in Math and Computer Science. It was definitely a tough balance, and it taught me very early on how to manage time as effectively as possible. I really had to separate baseball and school, so as soon as I got to the locker room my mind would be completely focused on baseball, while in the classroom my mind would be completely focused on the material. Of course all of that is easier said than done, but it was one of the most rewarding challenges of my life.”

I have seen you catch and you are an excellent defender behind the dish, is that something you have always prided yourself in? What do you consider to be your biggest strength? What area do you need to improve if any­čĄô?

“I appreciate you saying that, and it is definitely something I take a lot of pride in. I also pride myself in being able to control a baseball game from behind the plate. I want everyone, especially the pitcher, to be comfortable with me behind the plate because catchers handle the baseball throughout most of the game. That being said, I can always improve at the plate and behind the plate. I’m always trying to lower my pop time, block everything thrown my direction, receive the ball better, call a better game, have a more consistent approach at the plate, etc.”

Minor League life is often described as a grind, take me thru a day in the life of Austin Bossart during the season please.

” During the season, my day usually doesn’t start until about 10 when I wake up. I usually try to grab a good breakfast and then head to the field around 12 or 1. Once at the field I will work out and go to the cages for some early hitting before the team stretches together. If I am not in the lineup that day I will go catch bullpens right after stretch. Then, whether I am in the lineup or not, I will go hit BP around 4. After the opposing team takes BP we will go take Infield at around 5:30 or 6, then get ready for a game at 7. The games usually end around 10, so we head inside, shower up, and have whatever dinner the team provides for us after the game. So I will probably be back home at 11, but sometimes that is as late as 12 or 12:30. I will then read a bit in bed and start it all over the next day.”

Since you played at Penn your somewhat familiar with the Phillies fan base, what should they expect to see when watching you play?

“The Phillies fan base should expect a catcher that will work hard every single day. I will do everything in my power to help the pitching staff be the best they can be, and I will respect the game of baseball because it has given me so much in my life.”

Thanks to Austin for taking the time to answer my questions, he’s another young player to keep an eye on this summer in the system.

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28 thoughts on “Austin Bossart Interview – 2017

  1. Nice interview. Seems to be a level-headed, intelligent guy which is probably why he went to Penn :).

    1. Could be a rather good back-up in the majors…maybe the next to MLB from Penn following in Glanville and DeRosa footsteps.

      1. Yes, quality defensive catchers who know how to handle a staff can carve out long careers in a back-up role..

        1. a very good defensive catcher who can hit provides good value to any team. If Bossart is 2-3 years younger, he will probably be a well regarded prospect (and potential Top 20-30 Phillies prospect).

          1. Well yea, if he hits he will much more than a back-up. Just not seeing that offense yet..

            1. He has the highest career BA of any catcher in the org. He just doesn’t hit a lot of home runs.

            2. Born on the 4th of July…turns 24….could be in Philly in 2019 sometime.
              Judging by what many on here have said who have seen him call a game and play …..he could be a very definite plus backing up either Alfaro or Knapp or whoever may be the guy then.

            3. Career BA is meaningless, his career encompasses about 400 at-bats. I’ve seen/heard nothing that indicates that his bat is close to his defense..

            4. what’s hitting stats/ability do you expect from a catcher? especially the ones expected to bat 8th? what slash do you believe that a C should have to be a starting C?

              There are 5 C prospects in MLB Top 100. I’ll disregard #62 Alfaro, #35 Mejia and #87 Sisco since they already been around and with a lot of at bat.

              #34 Carson Kelly 22 yo 517 AB 0.252/.314/.376
              #87 Zack Collins 22 yo 327 AB 0.232/.389/.446

              Kelly is #1 C prospect and both are Day 1 draftees.

              Austin Bossart 23 yo 366 AB 0.298/.343/.393

              Bossart’s batting slash has been consistent year-to-year across 3 minor league levels (A-Short, A, A+).

            5. using defensive ability as a yard stick to measure a C’s hitting ability doesn’t make any sense. C is a position where defense matters more than the offense that’s why an offensive C is hard to find.

            6. Problem is that you are arguing that their MLB rank is based on that slash line and not based on other factors, scouting reports, draft position, etc.

              I don’t know why Carson Kelly and Zack Collins are rated how they are but I’m guessing it’s because Carson Kelly is in AAA at 22 and Zack Collins was a 1st round pick from a major D1 school in 2016.

              And if he’s expected to hit 8th in the line-up, he’s obviously not an offensive catcher…

            7. And I have no idea what you’re talking about in regard to using his defense to measure his offense? Just noting that his defense appears to be ahead of his offense at this point…

            8. I think it’s a bit of a catch-22. If he was hitting .087, there would be concerns. But since he’s hit pretty well given limited opportunity… it’s discounted somewhat. Regardless… he’s one to watch. I think the Phillies fans would eat up a hard working, local (U Penn grad), born on the 4th of July player.

            9. @3up – you are now digging yourself deeper. now you are staying away from the argument (that Bossart can hit as a C) that you cannot support and imply that i’m arguing about the MLB (which i’m not).

              You made a statement that said “Bossart should hit more than a back up”, “seeing that offense” and your justification that “BA is meaningless” and relate his “bat to his defense”.

              I just showed you that Bossart based on his consistent batting line is actually a good hitter for a catcher. No issue about his mechanics, his K% is decent. I used the batting numbers of top C prospects for good measure and to show that C’s are not known for offense so Bossart’s hitting slash is good for him.

            10. @bryan – CONSISTENCY says a lot in analyzing data. you cannot isolate a bad or a good number and say catch 22. something becomes a concern when stats matched the eye test. Bossart passed both – his hitting stats are consistent across all levels and reports from Philies outlets didn’t report any red flags about his hitting ability. Bossart has a prototypical profile of a line drive hitter that hits for average and not for power — which is easily observable unless you just want to ignore it.

              due to the stress of catch potential 100+ balls (thrown at different speed, angle, height, etc), C doesn’t normally have the same number of AB compared to other starters.

            11. @Kurt… we’re on the same page. My catch-22 was more in reference to Bossart being judged by others on a low number of plate appearances. If the numbers are low, the argument is “see, he can’t hit”. If the numbers are high, the argument leans toward, “not a large enough sample size”. Personally, I think he’s the best we have on both sides of the plate, but that’s just my opinion. Thanks for the great conversation.

          2. The offensive bar for catchers use to be lower than for any other position in the field. I assume it is still that way.

            1. But we expect more from Alfaro, Romus. And if he doesn’t, we’ll say he’s a bust. Bossart and Marchan are 2 catchers in the system that nobody should sleep on. We’re in very good shape with our future catching situation. And being that there are few mlb teams that have one primary catcher since it’s the most demanding position, I’m fine with Alfaro (60-65%) and Knapp (35-40%) as 1 and 1a in shared playing time next season. Alfaro may very well need to ease into the starting role.

            2. 8mark….what kind of slash/ISO do you expect from Alfaro going forward?
              I can see him as a guy with a slash of 260/320/790 with an ISO somewhere in the neighborhood of .185/.195
              Which probably is a little above average for a catcher, if he doesn’t become a defensive liability however.

            3. I’ll go .265/.310/.520, expecting 30/20 in 2b/hr. That’s over 120 starts or 450 PAs. His arm will discourage a lot of base stealing attempts, along with a 35%+ throw out rate. His other mechanics behind the plate will be a work in progress his first 2/3 yrs.

            4. You are a little more optimistic than me.
              With 120 starts plus some PHs duties along the way….may be hard press for him to get to 30/20. And with his k rate, so far up to now in the minors, and projecting forward, an OPS of 810 also seems pretty optimistic…hope you are correct and he gets there, and I am proved wrong.

  2. Once the catching situation dust settles with Rupp/Knapp/Alfaro, I look for Bossart to arise as a primary backup by next season. Rupp will either be traded but if he’s the backup to either Knapp or Alfaro, Bossart will displace him as his defensive superior.

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