Healthy Mayer finding his stride in Double-A

April 15th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BOSTON -- Not only is Marcelo Mayer healthy to start the season, but he is raking.

For the Red Sox's No. 1 prospect (and No. 15 overall) as rated by MLB Pipeline, this is a welcome development.

The five-tool shortstop and the No. 4 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft didn’t play after Aug. 2 of last season due to a left shoulder impingement.

The ill-timed injury limited Mayer’s stint at Double-A Portland to just two months. Mayer later admitted he'd been battling the shoulder discomfort long before he was shut down, which explains his struggles (.189/.254/.355 slash line) in 169 at-bats in Double-A.

A healthy Mayer is proving to be more than capable of hitting that level of pitching. In his first seven games for Portland this season, the left-handed hitter has a line of .357/.387/.500 with one double, one homer and five RBIs.

“It’s always great to see on-field results in the form of hits, extra bases, runs, etc., but we’ve also educated our players on what will drive sustained success and impact at the upper levels and big leagues,” said Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham. “So even when those on-field results aren’t there, we can track positive progress in multiple ways -- how hard a player hits a ball, swing decisions, or ability to go get to a ball in the field on defense.

“However, it’s always a good thing to see the work being put in before games have an immediate impact in-game -- it’s just not always as black and white as a hit or an out.”

Mayer seems to be reaping the benefits of an offseason in which he did everything he could to make sure his body withstands the rigors of a long baseball season.

“He worked incredibly hard throughout his progression in the offseason and Spring Training to prepare for the 2024 season,” said Abraham. “Whether that be rehab related, strength related, on-field performance related, we saw a player working with an intent to be an impact player this season and moving forward. It’s been great to see him continue to mature both on and off the baseball field.”

This season should provide the Red Sox with an idea of when Mayer will be ready to make his debut. While 2025 seems like a reasonable expectation, there’s always the chance Mayer could push that clock up.

The first step will likely be a promotion to Triple-A Worcester, though it’s not unheard of for a top prospect to go straight from Double-A to the Majors.

“The answer is different for every player. It’s a balance of depth, ability to get at-bats and innings and age,” Abraham said. “For Marcelo, like others, it’s also about working toward their individual player goals -- reaching them and working toward new ones that can continue at the next level. Putting each player in the optimal position to have success and continue to develop for the long term. It’s definitely not an exact science, but something our leadership group discusses and also tracks regularly.”

What are the organization’s developmental goals for Mayer this season?

“Continue to become an improved all-around player,” said Abraham. “Improve his range in the field and keep looking to impact the baseball. Have the continued ability to add good weight and strength. Offensively, it’s focusing on pitches within the zone he can do damage with. In simpler terms, increasing his walk percentage and decreasing his strikeout percentage will allow him to be a better overall hitter and maximize his potential.”

Here is a look at some early-season highlights from the other affiliates:

Triple-A Worcester: While Kyle Teel (No. 3) is the most hyped catcher in the farm system, and rightfully so, No. 16 prospect Nathan Hickey continues to find ways to impact the baseball. The 24-year-old has gone deep three times in his first 42 at-bats this season. Hickey’s defense, however, remains a work in progress.

High-A Greenville: Teel wasn’t the only player the Red Sox drafted from Virginia last June. Right-hander Connelly Early was selected in the fifth round out of that highly regarded program and he has dazzled in his first two starts for Greenville, giving up four hits and one run over nine innings while walking two and striking out 13.

Single-A Salem: Lefty Noah Dean, a fifth-rounder out of Old Dominion University in 2022, is looking to improve on a rough first pro season (6.29 ERA in 63 innings) last year. He certainly had a strong first start, throwing four hitless and scoreless innings while walking two and striking out six. Dean has always had impressive raw stuff. If he learns how to harness it, he may move up in the pecking order.