Boston snags Top 200 Draft prospect in 9th round

July 19th, 2022

If Brooks Brannon has proven anything during his young career, it’s that he’s not afraid to take risks.

One of the top high school Draft prospects this year, Brannon was selected by the Red Sox in the ninth round on Monday, later than he was projected to go and likely an above-slot signing.

The Red Sox -- who shied away from high-risk, high-upside picks on Day 2 until Round 9 came around -- may have been the perfect destination for the power-hitting catcher out of Randleman (N.C.) High School.

“If we could have picked, that is who we wanted to draft him,” said Paul Brannon, Brooks’ father and coach, who spent four years in the Minor Leagues. “Now, we’ll try to see what the next step is.”

Brooks Brannon is doubtful to stick behind the dish through his pro career, but his ceiling at the plate is extremely compelling. He’s coming off a jaw-dropping season in which he batted .609 with a 1.974 OPS and a state-record 91 RBIs in 135 plate appearances.

His 20 home runs on the season also matched a state record, held by none other than his father.

“I was actually hoping he would break it,” said Paul Brannon, who was picked by the Mariners in the fourth round of the 1990 Draft. “People don’t believe me when I say it, but I really was. … He’s worked hard and he’s earned it. I think it’s a lot harder to do it in today’s game than when I was playing.”

The accomplishments didn’t stop there. Brooks led his team to back-to-back state championships and was named 2A state player of the year in 2022. Those accolades raised the 6-foot, 210-pound catcher to No. 158 on MLB Pipeline’s Draft prospects list.

“We were surprised to see him get that far,” Red Sox director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni told “We think so highly of the baseball player and the person, we were beyond thrilled to see him staring at us at that point of the Draft.”

Brannon was the one big splash by the Red Sox on Monday, as Boston used six of its eight picks on college pitchers, mostly relievers, with refined repertoires that would likely have a shorter path to the Majors.

The raw power is there. So is the physicality and the ability to use the entire field. Why, then, was Brannon still available this late in the Draft?

One answer might be his defense. Though his arm has been impressive, Brannon has struggled with receiving, framing and blocking in his high school career.

There’s also a bit of over-aggressiveness at the plate, which more experienced pitchers might pick up on and exploit as Brannon moves through the ranks. But he’s willing to work on it.

“Brooks is the kind of kid that you have to let him fail,” said Paul Brannon. “And when he fails, he wants to know what he can do to get himself better, make things better. You’ve gotta give him that freedom. He’s smart enough to know that if it doesn’t work, and he needs help, he’ll ask for it.

“Sometimes, it takes a little longer for him to ask than, I guess, I’d like him to. But this year, he bought in full circle, all year. And it paid off here at the end.”

The 18-year-old Brooks, currently committed to UNC, is still years away from the Major Leagues, which may give him enough time to improve on defense -- something the Red Sox are willing to bet on.

“Brooks’ defensive skill set was one of the parts of his game that we were drawn to most,” said Toboni. “While he’s big and physical, he’s really flexible and athletic. He can get his body into some pretty unique positions, especially for a big, strong kid. We also think he has good hands behind the plate and an obviously strong arm.

“In our eyes, he possesses all the physical and mental traits to take off with professional instruction.”