What’s a realistic timeline for Marcelo Mayer’s MLB debut with Red Sox?

Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox
Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Marcelo Mayer, the fourth pick in the 2021 MLB Draft and No. 15-ranked prospect in baseball, is healthy and playing again after an injury plagued 2023 campaign. The Portland Sea Dogs season is underway, and Mayer is helming shortstop and batting second in all of their games for the foreseeable future.

There are high expectations beset upon the 21-year-old, and not just from the organization and Red Sox Nation. Mayer himself said he aspires to a major league debut in 2024. 

The inherent risk in promoting a priority prospect before he’s “ready” will likely cause Craig Breslow to keep Mayer in the minors for the majority of the season. The common sentiment amongst Red Sox Nation seems to be erring on the side of caution, as many don’t expect this team to contend anyway. So why should the Red Sox accelerate Mayer’s timeline?

The Red Sox have both present and future needs at shortstop

The $140 million shortstop is gone, Trevor Story is out for the year. Mayer was already viewed as Story's eventual successor, and it's not a stretch to say that Story is past his prime and will struggle to stay on the field moving forward.

The Red Sox are preparing Vaughn Grissom to head the shortstop platoon, even after training the whole offseason for a full-time shift to second base. After flat-out failing as a shortstop with Atlanta, Grissom was shifted to second base and was even sent to the outfield due to his defensive shortcomings. It’s not like Grissom is some veteran ... he’s only two years older than Mayer! Grissom’s development depends on putting him in a place to succeed, and shortstop is clearly not that position for him. 

The Red Sox were recently swept by an Orioles team that’s taking the league by storm, relying heavily on their young draft picks who rapidly ascended through MiLB. Their position player nucleus primarily consists of Adley Rutschman (No. 1 pick in 2019), Gunnar Henderson (second round pick in 2019), Colton Cowser (selected one spot below Mayer), Jackson Holliday (No. 1 pick in 2022), and Jordan Westburg (No. 30 pick in 2020). If the Red Sox want to keep up with division rivals who are outshining them at both the major league and minor league level, they need to show less aversion to giving a top prospect a shot at the big leagues.

Players like David Hamilton, Pablo Reyes, and Romy Gonzalez have low ceilings, far lower than Mayer, and I'm not even sure they're better than Mayer as of today. Why should the Red Sox keep a potential franchise cornerstone in Double-A and continue to platoon a series of temporary, suboptimal options all year?

Just look around the league! Here are some of Mayer’s position player counterparts from the 2021 MLB Draft who’ve debuted already: Henry Davis, Cowser, Sal Frelick, Matt McLain, Jackson Merrill, Zack Gelof, Christian Encarnacion-Strand. Here are some current major league shortstops: Bobby Witt Jr (currently 23, debuted at 21), Anthony Volpe (currently 22, debuted at 21), Elly De La Cruz (currently 22, debuted at 21), CJ Abrams (currently 23, debuted at 21), Zach Neto (currently 23, debuted at 22). There's also Jackson Chourio, Evan Carter, Junior Caminero, Wyatt Langford, Jordan Lawlar, Colt Keith. It’s outdated to think that teams should always play it safe when promoting highly valued prospects to the Show.

Promoting Mayer would represent a willingness to go all-in after a failure to do so in the offseason. Red Sox fans have been forced to wait while other franchises trot out their exciting young players. Stop playing it safe. Promote the kid.