The 2018 campaign didn't start the way Cole Brannen had probably planned, but after dealing with early struggles at Class A Greenville, the Red Sox No. 6 prospect got to spend a month at extended spring training, helping him regain his confidence with the Lowell Spinners.
"It was pretty much a reset button," said Boston's second-round Draft selection in 2017. "I feel like a lot of times in life people always want a reset button and not many people get the opportunity to be able to use a reset button. It was such a blessing."
After hitting .157 in 32 games with the Drive, the speedy outfielder was sent to the team's facilities in Fort Myers, Florida, where he used the time as an opportunity to fine-tune his game.
Brannen's main focus was on his hitting, where alongside the Spinners' coaching staff he was able to work on getting into his legs and back hip a bit more with his swing.
"I went down to Fort Myers during extended and really got to focus on some things I wanted to work on," he said. "In-season it's hard to have that time because you're playing every day. There's not a lot of time to practice. Being able to go down there and really have that time to work on some things was awesome for me. It really helped."
The results showed immediately when he arrived at Lowell as he hit safely in his first five games with the Spinners and .282 over 11 games in June.
And again, Brannen credits that midseason reset in which he was also able to acclimate himself with the group that would become his new teammates, providing the 19-year-old with an added comfort level as they all headed north together.
"Just going down there and getting that confidence, being able to take a step back and reset helped so much," said Brannen. "Coming back up here with the new Draft guys, it's like a whole new complete reset from all different aspects. There's something about this team, it's a special team. Every day we're competing. I feel like we've been playing together for a long while, but it's only been a month or so. It's been a blast."
While the hitting aspect of his game gets fine-tuned, Brannen continues to show off his flashiest tool, his speed. The Georgia native, who was 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts with Greenville, has swiped eight bags on nine tries for Lowell.
So far in his career, Brannen has already accumulated 27 stolen bases, and the 17 he has this season in just 49 games ranks second in the Red Sox system.
For Brannen, it's just another part of his game that requires daily attention for improvement, and though he experienced struggles in the first half of the year, he chalks it all up as an opportunity to learn and grow within a game that he's still settling into as his profession.
"I'm glad I struggled. I think it's made me a better player and a better person for sure. It only made me stronger," said Brannen. "It's a completely different lifestyle. I love it. It's the best job in the world. It's such a blessing."
Hit attack: Tyler Freeman, the Indians No. 13 prospect, continues his torrid start to the season, leading the league with 34 hits, a .415 batting average and .456 on-base percentage. The Mahoning Valley shortstop has hit safely in 18 of his 21 games with 11 multi-hit and five three-hit games. The right-handed hitter has dominated left-handed pitchers thus far, posting a .522 average with 12 hits in 23 at-bats versus southpaws. He has also hit well wherever he has played, with a .438 average on the road and .400 at Eastwood Field.
Unpacking boxes: West Virginia's Travis Swaggerty seems comfortable in his new home at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field. The 10th overall pick in the MLB Draft this past June is hitting .360 in six games at his new home ballpark, with all of his four RBIs coming there. The Black Bears center fielder, who has played in 10 games thus far, has three of his four multi-hit games on the season at Bowman Field.
A quick study: Hudson Valley reliever Simon Rosenblum-Larson has flat-out denied the opposition since making his pro debut for the Renegades. The Harvard product, drafted by Tampa Bay in the 19th round this past June, has a 0.00 ERA over 14 1/3 innings. He was hooked with a loss in his first outing after two unearned runs came under his watch, but has since gone 1-0 with two saves over his next four outings, each of which was 2 2/3 innings or longer. Rosenblum-Larson has also posted a 0.84 WHIP, holding opponents to a .188 batting average.
Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.