It’s been less than a year and a half since the Boston Red Sox drafted Marcelo Mayer as the fourth-overall pick in the 2021 draft, but fans are already champing at the bit to see him in the majors.
Seeing Bryson Stott, the Philadelphia Phillies’ first-round pick in 2019 who only played one full season in the minors, debut on Opening Day 2022 and now impressing in the postseason, is only going to exacerbate that impatience.
Like the Phillies, the Sox have struggled to develop big-league talent in recent years. That deficiency forced both franchises to keep high payrolls and/or field subpar teams for significant portions of the last decade, though the Sox still managed to win a pair of championships in between dismal campaigns. For the Phillies, Stott’s debut coincides with their first postseason run since 2011 and their first pennant since 2009. As such, his meteoric rise is a huge achievement for their organization, a sign that they are turning a corner in homegrown talent as well as collective relevancy and success.
Setting aside the Xander Bogaerts of it all for a moment, could Mayer advance to the majors at lightspeed the way Stott did?
Not likely for several reasons.
How each organization manages its farm will impact Mayer’s journey. In an effort to improve their farm system from the top down, the Phillies also hired a rising star from the Rays to improve player development, Anirudh Kilambi. However, he reports to President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, and it was Dombrowski who challenged Stott to show up to spring training with the goal of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Boston’s former Rays exec, Chaim Bloom, has been more cautious with his top prospects. Just look at how long the Sox waited to call up Triston Casas this year. He’s also seen former top prospects such as Bobby Dalbec – sent down for Casas’ debut – and Jarren Duran fall apart at the big-league level, and won’t want to risk repeating that with Mayer.
Then there’s the matter of the players themselves. Stott played three years of college baseball at UNLV, so he came in with more experience than Mayer, whom the Sox selected out of high school in 2021. The Phillies infielder debuted at 24; Mayer is 19.
It was easier for Stott to rise through the Phillies farm because he came in with college ball experience that put him several years ahead of Mayer developmentally at the time of their respective drafts. Stott only played four games at the rookie level in 2019 before getting put in Low-A for 44 games. Even with the cancelation of the 2020 MiLB season, he spent time at the Phillies’ alternate training site, which helped him rise rapidly through the farm system. In 2021, he played 22 games at High-A, 80 at Double-A, and then 10 at Triple-A. His entire minor-league career was 169 games, barely longer than a full MLB season.
Meanwhile, after signing with the Sox last summer, Mayer only played 26 games of rookie ball. 2022 was his first true professional season, and he played 91 games across Low- and High-A, but mostly at the lower level. While he hit well in Low-A Salem – impressive given its hitter-unfriendly dimensions – his numbers dropped quite a bit after he moved up to High-A Greenville.
With how crucial he is to the future, there’s no chance the Sox mess with Mayer by rushing the process. But prospects are far from a sure thing; less than 10% of minor-leaguers even make it to the majors at all. And the scouting report on him is laudatory but also notes a few causes for concern. Baseball America (subscription required) describes him as a “natural, graceful player” with “advanced feel for the strike zone” and “strong plate discipline.” However, the rundown also notes his below-average speed and the fact that he could very well outgrow the shortstop position, which would prompt a move to third base. The good news, it seems, is that if he were to move to the hot corner, scouts think he could be a standout defender there.
The Sox need to keep Xander Bogaerts around while Mayer hopefully continues developing into the player they think he can be. Bogaerts is already a sure thing; he’s a proven winner and team leader. There’s no better mentor for Mayer in a few years, either.