Just two years ago, Marcelo Mayer was completing his senior year at Eastlake High in Chula Vista, Calif. Now he’s rapidly moving up the Boston Red Sox farm system with a promotion to Double-A Portland. Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune

Marcelo Mayer’s debut with the Portland Sea Dogs was a soft opening. He played shortstop and hit third in Portland’s lineup Wednesday in a game at Somerset, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. A midweek day game, played 368 miles from Portland in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Not exactly prime time.

Marcelo Mayer

Next week, Mayer, the fourth overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft, will play in front of the eager Hadlock Field crowd for the first time, when the Sea Dogs host the Akron Rubber Ducks on Tuesday night. Portland has been waiting for this. One of the most asked questions about the Sea Dogs this season has been, when is Mayer getting called up?

It happened Sunday, when word came that Mayer was joining the Sea Dogs. Mayer went 0 for 5 in his Double-A debut Wednesday, with two strikeouts. It’s proof that baseball is a maddening, difficult game, and proof that the jump from Single-A to Double-A is a grind for even the most talented players. And there’s no doubt, Mayer is one of the most talented players the Sea Dogs have ever had. Just 20 years old, he’s a player the Boston Red Sox have staked the future on, a player they expect to be a cornerstone of the next generation.

The top-rated prospect in Boston’s minor league system, the 6-foot-2, 188-pound Mayer is the fifth-rated prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com, and the third-rated shortstop. Has a player’s arrival in Portland ever come with this much anticipation? Most of the time, we look back on a player’s time in Portland, not forward to it. It’s usually a case of “remember when …” not “I can’t wait for …”

Maybe Xander Bogaerts, who played in Portland in 2012 and 2013. Or Rafael Devers, who played 77 games for the Sea Dogs in 2017 and was in Boston’s lineup by the end of the season. Maybe Andrew Benintendi, the seventh overall MLB pick in 2015, who began the 2016 season with the Sea Dogs before bypassing Triple-A Pawtucket entirely and joining the Red Sox. Maybe you have to go all the way back to 2001, when the Sea Dogs still were an affiliate of the Florida Marlins and pitcher Josh Beckett, the second overall pick in 1999, started 13 games for Portland.

Each of those players came to Portland with expectations and hype, but not with the expectations surrounding Mayer.


The Red Sox cleared the way for Mayer’s eventual arrival in Boston when they failed to sign longtime shortstop Bogaerts to a contract extension this past offseason, letting the veteran and team leader move on to San Diego. Red Sox management was content to turn shortstop over to a rotating gang of place holders until Mayer is ready for the big leagues. That includes Trevor Story, who played second base last season, his first with the Red Sox, and will play shortstop when he returns from the injured list later this season.

When you let the face of the franchise walk, knowing his long-term replacement is still a couple seasons away, you’re asking the fans to be patient. You’re also putting that replacement under a microscope. So far, the attention hasn’t seemed to rattle Mayer.

We all figured Mayer would be promoted to Portland this summer. Tearing up the South Atlantic League in High-A Greenville, Mayer forced Boston’s hand. In 35 games with Greenville this season, Mayer hit .290, with seven home runs, 23 runs and 34 RBI. Mayer’s on-base percentage in Greenville was .366. His OPS (on base percentage and slugging) was .890. He stole five bases. Mayer had a torrid May for the Drive, hitting .321 with six home runs in 18 games before his promotion.

Thanks to the internet, fans can follow the minor leagues like never before. Fans can study a player’s development game by game, inning by inning, really. Word of mouth doesn’t need to exist when every at bat or slick play in the field is available with a few clicks of the keyboard. No prospect flies under the radar in 2023, especially one who was the fourth pick in the draft just two years ago.

Mayer is the Red Sox highest draft pick since Ken Brett (older brother of Hall of Famer George Brett) was selected fourth overall in 1966. Since 1965, the Red Sox have drafted in the top 10 only seven times. Some, like Trot Nixon (No. 7 in 1993) panned out and became very good major league ballplayers. Others, like Trey Ball (No. 7 in 2013) did not.

Sea Dogs fans knew Mayer was coming. Now he’s with the team … and next week he’ll be in Portland.

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