John Tomase

The concerning optics of Red Sox shutting down Marcelo Mayer

While Mayer recovers from an injury, rival prospects are starting to make a real impact.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Discussions of Marcelo Mayer invariably return to the same phrases: Can't miss. Five-tool. The future.

Much of the Chaim Bloom experiment hinges on Mayer's emergence. Is he a surefire All-Star who mans shortstop for a decade and becomes the building block upon which the foundation of the next great Red Sox team rests? Or is he just a solid everyday big leaguer who routinely finds himself not quite meriting All-Star consideration, like, say, a Trot Nixon?

The last few weeks have illustrated just how fine the line between those two outcomes can be. The most obvious development is that Mayer's season is over. As first reported by's Ian Browne, the Red Sox are shutting him down for the final couple of weeks.

It's no surprise. Mayer hasn't played since early August because of left shoulder inflammation, a condition that likely contributed to his poor performance at Double-A Portland. After hitting .290 with an .890 OPS at High-A Greenville, he batted just .189 with a .609 OPS at the next level. That's not necessarily cause for alarm, although it's worth noting that the last three can't-miss Red Sox prospects to reach Double-A -- Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts -- all dominated there.

What's concerning is the changing prospect landscape around him. Mayer's injury-riddled finish just happens to coincide with the arrival of Yankees masher Jasson Domínguez, a switch-hitting center fielder who is actually two months younger than Mayer and taking New York by storm.

Nicknamed "The Martian" because his teenaged exploits in the Dominican seemed extraterrestrial, Domínguez has already homered three times in five games, including in his first at-bat, off future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. The Yankees are 5-0 since Domínguez arrived, their moribund season suddenly transformed.

Because he signed at age 16, Domínguez has been in New York's system since 2019. During that time, his prospect rankings have fluctuated from No. 33 overall in 2021 to No. 87 a year later. He has never been as highly regarded as Mayer, although he arrived in the big leagues with name recognition, thanks to the Yankees hype machine.

Now that he's here, though, he's giving Yankees fans a reason to believe in much the same way that the arrival of the Baby Bombers in 2016 headed off New York's last runaway train to the abyss. Along with shortstop Anthony Volpe, whose disappointing rookie season has still yielded 20-20 results, New York will at least head home for the winter with some hope. The Yankees may even catch the Red Sox and avoid their first last-place finish since 1990.

Had Mayer stayed healthy, there's a shot he could've debuted this month, too. After all, two other shortstops from his 2021 draft class are already making news, including a fellow high-schooler.

The first is Reds Rookie of the Year runner-up candidate Matt McClain (no one is catching Arizona's Corbin Carroll). The UCLA product went No. 17 overall, 13 picks after Mayer, and played a leading role in Cincinnati's surprising run to contention before being shelved with an oblique injury. The Reds hope he can return soon and add to his .290-16-50-.864 numbers.

The second is Jordan Lawlar. A candidate to be selected fourth overall by Boston, he instead went sixth to the Diamondbacks out of a Dallas high school. The start of his career was delayed by a left shoulder injury, too, which ultimately required surgery, but he has made up for lost time and then some, culminating in the D'backs summoning him this week as they attempt to catch the Marlins for the final NL wild card spot.

Lawlar reached Double-A a year sooner than Mayer, and he similarly struggled, hitting just .212 in 20 games. He slammed 15 homers there to open this season, however, before batting .358 at Triple-A Reno and earning the promotion to Arizona to play third base.

Lawlar's ceiling is generally considered lower than Mayer's, but only one of them can currently say they're a big leaguer. If Lawlar impacts a pennant race, it will apply another half turn of pressure on Mayer to make his mark in Boston.

Should the performance of one prospect impact another? Of course not. But when you're billed as the savior, even the slightest stumble can balloon into existential concern.

Contact Us