Red Sox catch prospect Brooks Brannon shows signs of promise on pro debut
The Red Sox have selected only one natural receiver in each of the last two amateur drafts. Last year they took Nathan Hickey in the fifth round at the University of Florida. Earlier this summer, they took Brooks Brannon to the ninth round at Randleman High School in Randleman, North Carolina.
At that time, Brannon was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 155 prospect in the draft class of 2022. The 18-year-old safety net had also committed to playing college baseball at the University of North Carolina , near Chapel Hill.
Brannon’s commitment to the Tar Heels was believed to be strong. But just two days after being drafted, the North Carolina native told HighSchoolOT’s Kyle Morton that he intended to turn pro and sign with the Red Sox.
“Before the draft, if I could have picked any team, it would be the Red Sox,” Brannon said. “They did their best to establish a relationship. … Everything is very family-oriented. … The fact that they have that is huge. I’m just happy to be part of an organization that values it like they do.
Towards the end of July, Brannon officially signed with Boston for $712,500. To put that number into context, third-rounder Dalton Rogers received a signing bonus of $447,500, so the Sox certainly went above and beyond to secure Brannon’s services.
“We were surprised to see him go this far,” director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni told MLB.com’s Julia Kreuz in July. “We think so much of the baseball player and the person that we were beyond thrilled to have him watching us at this point in the draft.
After hitting 20 homers and scoring 91 runs as a senior at Randleman High, Brannon made his professional Florida Complex League debut on August 13. The right-handed hitter appeared in just five games for the FCL Red Sox, going 6-for-13 (.462) with one double, two triples, five RBIs, six runs scored, two walks and five outs at bat.
Although he didn’t go any deeper into his brief pro appearance, Brannon was still recently identified by Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo as the best power hitter the Red Sox have drafted this year.
“While the basic stats are nice to see, [Brannon’s] the underlying exit speed data is even more encouraging,” Collazo wrote on Monday, “with the best 90th percentile (105 mph) exit speed mark of this Boston draft class.
On the other side of the ball, we wonder if Brannon can stay behind home plate long term. The 6-foot, 210-pound player is described by Baseball America as someone who “needs to improve his actions behind the plate as a catcher and pitch blocker.” Although his arm strength stood out, Brannon didn’t kick out any of the three runners who attempted to steal against him in the Florida Complex League.
“Brooks’ defensive skills were one of the parts of his game that appealed to us the most,” Toboni said over the summer. “Although he’s tall and physical, he’s really flexible and athletic. He can put his body in some pretty unique positions, especially for a tall, strong kid. We also think he has good hands behind the plate. and an obviously strong arm.In our eyes, he has all the physical and mental traits to take off with a professional instruction.
Brannon, who won’t turn 19 until next May, is currently considered by SoxProspects.com to be the No. 30 prospect in the Boston Farm System. This ranks third among backstops in the organization behind only Hickey and Connor Wong.
Considering he only has five FCL games under his belt, Brannon is expected to return to the rookie-level affiliate next summer. That being said, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he caught up with Low-A Salem before the end of the 2023 season.