Red Sox catching prospect Brooks Brannon shows signs of promise in pro debut

The Red Sox have selected just one natural catcher in each of the last two amateur drafts. Last year, they took Nathan Hickey in the fifth round of the University of Florida. Earlier this summer, they took Brooks Brannon in the ninth round out of Randleman High School in Randleman, N.C.

At that time, Brannon was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 155 prospect in the 2022 draft class. The 18-year-old backstop was also committed to play college baseball at the University of North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill.

It was believed that Brannon’s commitment to the Tar Heels was a strong one. But just two days after being drafted, the North Carolina native told HighSchoolOT’s Kyle Morton that he intended to go pro and sign with the Red Sox.

“Leading up to the draft, if I could have picked any team it would have been the Red Sox,” Brannon said. “They did the best as far as establishing a relationship. … Everything is very family oriented. … The fact that they have that is huge. I’m just glad to be a part of an organization that values that 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 get that far,” amateur scouting director Paul Toboni told MLB.com’s Julia Kreuz back in July. “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.

Fresh off belting 20 homers and driving in 91 runs as a senior at Randleman High, Brannon made his professional debut in the Florida Complex League 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 strikeouts.

Though he did not go deep in his brief pro cameo, Brannon was still recently identified by Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo as the best power hitter the Red Sox drafted this year.

“While the baseline stats are nice to see, [Brannon’s] underlying exit velocity data is even more encouraging,” Collazo wrote on Monday, “with the best 90th percentile exit velocity mark (105 mph) of this Boston draft class.”

On the other side of the ball, there are questions about whether Brannon can stick behind the plate long-term. The 6-foot, 210-pounder is described by Baseball America as someone who “needs to improve his actions behind the plate as both a receiver and pitch blocker.” Although his arm strength stands out, Brannon did not throw out any of the three runners who tried to steal against him in the Florida Complex League.

“Brooks’ defensive skill set was one of the parts of his game that we were drawn to most,” Toboni said over the summer. “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.”

Brannon, who does not turn 19 until next May, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. That ranks third among backstops in the organization behind only Hickey and Connor Wong.

Given that he has just five FCL games under his belt, Brannon is expected to return to the rookie-level affiliate next summer. That being said, it would not be all that surprising if he made it up to Low-A Salem before the end of the 2023 season.

(Picture of Brooks Brannon: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox select Long Beach state right-hander Marques Johnson with 11th-round pick in 2022 MLB Draft

With the 339th overall pick in the 2020 MLB first-year player draft, the Red Sox selected California State University, Long Beach right-hander Marques Johnson.

Johnson, 22, is regarded by Baseball America as the 328th-ranked prospect in this year’s draft class. Formerly of Riverside Community College, the Hemet, Calif. native posted a 3.25 ERA and 1.15 WHIP to go along with 51 strikeouts to 21 walks over 14 appearances (six starts) spanning 44 1/3 innings of work for the Dirtbags this season.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Johnson “has a fast arm,” according to his Baseball America scouting report. “His average fastball touches 95 mph and sits 91-93 mph. He generates high spin rates with his fastball, but as of yet, that has not generated exceptional movement or life on his heater. He throws a low-80s above-average slider that has plenty of tilt. He’s steadily improved his now fringe-average changeup.”

The hard-throwing senior began his collegiate career as a reliever before moving into Long Beach State’s starting rotation towards the end of the 2022 season. Because of that, some evaluators wonder if Johnson would be better suited for a relief role moving forward, though he still could develop into a productive starter.

Johnson, who does not turn 23 until next July, becomes just the third player the Red Sox have ever drafted out of Long Beach State, joining the likes of 2019 21st-rounder Dylan Spacke and 2018 seventh-rounder Jarren Duran. The righty also becomes the seventh college pitcher Boston has taken in this year’s draft.

The recommended slot value attached to the 339th selection in the 2022 draft comes in at $125,000. The Red Sox will have until August 1 to sign Johnson, as well as the rest of their draft picks.

(Picture of Marques Johnson: Long Beach State Athletics)

Red Sox select San Diego infielder Chase Meidroth with fourth-round pick in 2022 MLB Draft

With the 129th overall pick in the 2022 MLB first-year player draft, the Red Sox selected University of San Diego infielder Chase Meidroth.

Meidroth, who turns 21 in five days, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 258 prospect in this year’s draft class. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. native should be somewhat familiar with baseball in the New England-area, as he spent part of his summer playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

As a sophomore at the University of San Diego, the right-handed hitting Meidroth batted .329/.440/.544 with 19 doubles, 10 home runs, 47 RBIs, 53 runs scored, six stolen bases, 40 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 56 games (275 plate appearances) with the Toreros en route to being selected to the All-West Coast Conference First Team.

On the Cape, Meidroth again walked more (15) than he struck out (14) while slashing .286/.434/.381 in 22 games with the Y-D Red Sox.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Meidroth “is a smaller hitter who doesn’t have much in the way of raw power, and instead uses a line drive swing and average bat speed to make plenty of contact and spray the ball into the gaps. Meidroth’s home run power was almost exclusively to the pull side and his exit velocities and lack of physical projection don’t suggest much more power in the future.”

Defensively, Meidroth has at least some experience at every infield position besides first base. The 5-foot-10, 172-pounder saw the majority of his playing time at San Diego this season come at second base, which is likely his best position moving forward since his speed is considered below-average.

The Red Sox last took a player out of the University of San Diego in 2019, when they selected left-hander Chris Murphy in the sixth round. Murphy has since emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system.

Meidroth, on the other hand, becomes the first collegiate position player and third California-born infielder the Sox have taken in the 2022 draft, joining the likes of first-rounder Mikey Romero and second-rounder Cutter Coffey.

The recommended slot value attached to the 129th overall pick in this year’s draft comes in at $461,000. The Sox will have until August 1 to sign Meidroth, as well as the rest of their draft selections.

(Picture of Chase Meidroth: University of San Diego Athletics)