There is no shortage of prospects in the minors whose stats aren’t an accurate reflection of their potential. Different players progress at different rates, and for a myriad of reasons.
Drafted in the 2nd round in 2017 out of The Westfield School in Perry, Georgia, Cole Brannen has had a rough go of it so far in the pros.
Ranked 14th overall among the Class of 2017 by Perfect Game (3rd in Georgia), Brannen showed an ideal tool set for center field. A broken hamate bone slowed his progress considerably in the Spring of 2017, and thus he showed virtually no extra-base power in the GCL over 39 games (2 XBH in 134 AB). Add to that the usual adjustment to pro ball, and you get a .630 OPS in rookie ball. The Red Sox promoted him to the short-season Class-A Lowell Spinners for three games, where he went 1-9 with a triple and an RBI.
Starting the 2018 season in Low-A Greenville, Brannen has certainly had a tough go of it (.451 OPS in 127 AB, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 7 RBI, 9 SB), still working to adjust to pro ball. On May 18th, Brannen was demoted to Lowell. He’ll reset and try again when the New York-Penn League gets going in June.
Numbers aside, Brannen has an impressive set of tools. His speed is, as mentioned previously, outstanding. He’s got slightly better arm strength than other center fielders, and he gets to the ball quickly with efficient, short routes. He likely will never hit for much power, but he has potential for gap-power production and plenty of doubles.
While he hasn’t had a lot of base-stealing opportunities so far, he is 19 for 22 in his thus-far 74-game career, a total that could settle into 30-40 steal territory with regular contact at the plate. He’s shown a very good eye at the plate, however, having drawn 47 walks in 323 PA, and his quick hands and short path to the ball should eventually boost his numbers.
Keep in mind, of course, that he doesn’t turn 20 years old until August, so there’s a considerable amount of time for him to get acquainted with minor-league pitching.
He’s got a high-enough floor to be a 4th outfielder at higher levels, but even with average offensive totals he could see considerable time in center at the major-league level. Tremendous speed, athleticism, and his untapped potential at the plate make Brannen one to watch, even with the exceedingly slow start he’s had in 2018.