A healthier Mayer leading exciting trio of prospects into 2024

January 18th, 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.

As stood against the wall in the middle of the home clubhouse at Fenway Park on Wednesday, it seemed like a glimpse into the near future.

Mayer, the game’s No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is in town for Red Sox Rookie Development Camp. The players invited to the annual camp are typically the prospects the club believes are reasonably close to reaching the Major Leagues.

The spot Mayer did his scrum with the media is the same place where stars of the game conduct their interviews after Red Sox home games.

Two-and-half-years ago, the Red Sox selected the talented shortstop with the fourth overall pick in the Draft.

Mayer is at the centerpiece of the most highly touted trio of positional prospects the Red Sox have had since the days of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. a decade ago

Center fielder (team’s No. 2 prospect) and catcher (No. 4 prospect) -- who are also part of Rookie Development Camp -- fill out the big three.

But Mayer, provided he can stay healthy this season, figures to be the first one to get to the Major Leagues.

left shoulder impingement derailed what could have been a breakout 2023 season for Mayer, one in which he was promoted to Double-A Portland in late May.

The truth is that Mayer was already hurt by the time he got to Portland, which explains a dramatic dip in production (.189/.254/.355 slash line) at Double-A in a 43-game stint before he was shut down.

“I'm looking forward now,” said Mayer. “It's in the past. My shoulder is in a great spot. I started swinging it a few days ago, it feels as good as ever, so I'm excited for the new year.”

As for looking back, Mayer concedes there is something to be learned.

“Last season, I obviously had the shoulder injury. I hurt it in May, continued to play, and it ended up getting to a point where I just couldn't really do it anymore,” Mayer said. “I think a lot of that's on me not really knowing my body and not knowing how to handle a full season or communicate with my trainers in [the right] way.”

After a conservative winter in terms of baseball activities, Mayer doesn’t see anything holding him back when Spring Training starts next month.

“It's a progression,” Mayer said. “I've started tee and flips. Hopefully soon, I'll start doing live arm [BP] and then in a week or two, start doing machine work.”

Look for Mayer, Anthony and Teel to all start the season at Portland, making that a destination for Red Sox fans who want to watch premium prospects grow together. By midsummer or earlier, some or all of them could earn a ticket to Triple-A Worcester. And everyone knows what comes after that.

“I love it,” Mayer said. “Roman, Teel, they're great players. They love to play, they play hard. We all hold each other accountable. I'm really excited to see what our team is going to look like this year.”

The trio already seems to have become a mutual admiration society.

“I would say they are both great hitters and both great on defense,” Teel said of Mayer and Anthony. “The number one thing is I would say they work really hard and they love to compete.”

While it’s possible Mayer will make his Major League debut this season, he will let that play out rather than predict it will happen.

“That's always the goal -- every Minor Leaguer, every baseball player wants to be in the big leagues as soon as possible, but I'm not there yet,” Mayer said. “I'm in the Minors and I've got to take care of business first. I've got to take it day by day and rep by rep, because that's what I'm going to need to do to get better.”

In a recent interview with The Boston Globe, Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow cited Mayer, Anthony and Teel specifically as players who will be key to the team’s future.

“It's great,” said Anthony. “It’s an honor to be counted on and it's an honor to be mentioned. I think that you always got to take that as a positive, obviously. But we're not there yet and none of us have gotten there yet. We've got a lot of work to do and a long ways to go before we're there.

“But I think I can speak for all the guys here when I say the end goal is the same. It’s to hold up that banner and win a World Series here in Boston. So I think we’re all just working as hard as we can to get there and enjoying each step of the way.”