The first thing you notice when watching video of Brannen and/or reading scouting reports is the athleticism. He can flat-out fly, and that works to his advantage on the bases as well as in the field. He’s a center fielder by trade, and he clearly has the range to stay at the position. On top of that, he has a strong arm that should be able to play anywhere in the outfield.
At the plate, he has a short swing and does a great job of barrelling the ball on a regular basis. If he’s going to be a major-league hitter, it’ll be on the back of his contact skills and his quick hands.
While the contact skills are great, that doesn’t mean he has a plus hit tool or anything like that. Specifically, his pitch recognition could use some work. He doesn’t have a ton of experience against high-level pitching, and there will likely be some adjustment periods against professional pitching. He also missed some time after breaking his hamate bone this spring and undergoing surgery, so he didn’t quite get the work this spring that most of his classmates did.
In addition to unrefined pitch/strike zone recognition, there are also questions about Brannen’s ultimate power ceiling. There is loft in his swing right now, but the long-term development of that power is no guarantee. Even if he doesn’t develop the over-the-fence power, he should be able to barrell enough balls to use his speed to produce plenty of extra-base hits.
Brannen will almost certainly be placed in the Gulf Coast League to start this season, with a possible promotion to Lowell if all goes well in the GCL. There’s no guarantees, but assuming he doesn’t fall flat on his face this year it seems like there’s a chance he’d see Greenville in 2018.
It’s hard to really say with any certainty what the Red Sox have in Brannen down the road. There’s a lot of projection here, particularly with his power stroke and his overall approach at the plate. Still, he strikes me as a similar player to Danny Mars. That may not be the most exciting prospect imaginable, and Brannen’s ceiling is higher than that, but it’s a useful profile for a major-league organization.