The 2021 MLB Draft may have the best prep shortstop class baseball has seen in an entire decade. Not since 2011 have two prep shortstops been selected top 10. Hell, baseball hasn’t seen two prep shortstops selected in the top 15 of any draft during that period.
Talent up the middle of the diamond, specifically catcher, shortstop and centerfield, generally speak toward the health of a draft class. 2011 was a special year for high school talent at the 6 hole. Top ten selections Francisco Lindor (no. 8) and Javier Baez (no. 9) have both gone on to play in multiple All-Star games and both have reached the World Series. Trevor Story (no. 45) and Marcus Semien (no. 201) have also reached all-star status after being selected in the 2011 class.
Previously chronicled shortstop Jordan Lawlar looks a pretty good bet to be in top 10 consideration next July. Chula Vista, California bluechip Marcelo Mayer is in the same conversation.
While Lawlar has seen more of an ascension this summer, Mayer’s name is no stranger to top draft lists, and it’s been that way for the better part of two years. The 6-foot-3-inch infielder has been a star on the prep circuit since he was 15-years-old. Many publications listed Mayer as a top ten prospect for the 2021 draft prior to this summer. But after a pandemic swept the globe, his stock has become a little muddier.
Mayer elected to stay home for much of the 2021 summer showcase circuit. He skipped the Perfect Game National Showcase in June, and missed out on East Coast Pro in August. Because this summer is the biggest season there is for projecting the following year’s draft eligible players, many scouts and publications knocked Mayer down a peg. He’d eventually get invited to Area Code Games, but had to miss that as well. Mayer would make his national showcase debut for 2020 at Perfect Game All-American Classic in early September. Mayer is also slated to partake in the All-Star Classic in early October, as well as the WWBA World Championships shortly thereafter.
It’s no doubt been a challenging year to get in front of the eyes necessary to boost one’s value.
Mayer figures to be the first or second shortstop off the board next July (assuming Brady House is a third baseman), jockeying with Lawlar all along the way. They’re two very, very different players. Lawlar, the superior athlete and current package — Mayer, the smooth, projectable, longer body that oozes potential.
So what about Mayer’s game makes him worthy of a potential top ten pick and the label of a potential big league star? Let’s dive in.
Right out of the gate, the no-doubt first thing that jumps off the page for Mayer is the fluidity and ease in which he goes about his business. The mechanics and demeanor at the plate are buttery smooth. His entire operation and way he goes about an at-bat are sure to garner some Robinson Cano/Manny Machado comps in the lead up to the draft. It’s a quiet, controlled, rhythmic setup with a smooth, restrained load. It’s a cadence better set in an early-morning yoga studio. You can’t help but feel comfortable watching Mayer get in the box.
The mechanics of his swing are sound, though currently lacking the natural physical violence you’d like to see from a future power hitter. There’s no quick-twitch aggressive hip rotation, and he doesn’t create a ton of separation from his shoulders when he locks into his firing mechanism... yet. More on that in a bit.
Because there isn’t a natural ambush mentality in his load-and-fire, Mayer has had a tendency to take more balls up the middle and the other way rather than selling out for in-game pull-side power. That being said, in an interview with Mayer earlier this month, I addressed the thought with him and he said he’s made it a point of growth for his swing over the next calendar year. In short, he’s always been a guy that looks to go the other way with the ball. It’s an extremely professional mindset, but given his physical dominance over almost every other guy his age, scouts want to see more pump from the bat over the next ten months. As it stands, his up-the-middle, other-way approach could limit his ability to produce upper tier exit velocities at the next level. That being said, at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, he has a ton of physical projection remaining so forecasting an improvement in this area as his body continues to mature is more likely than not.
Mayer’s approach compliments his swing beautifully. Like Cano, he does an exemplary job keeping his hands tucked and inside the ball. The byproduct is a barrel that stays through the zone longer than his peers, allowing him to spray the ball to all fields.
In totality, the natural hit-ability from Mayer is among the best in the class. His strike-zone discipline, maturity, and track record is impressive. He projects a valuable hitter at the next level with the potential to pump out some .300 seasons should his trajectory maintain.
The power tool is where you’ll find the greatest disparities among evaluators. On the low end, Mayer projects a fringe-average power hitter thanks almost entirely to his size. On the high-end, you’ll find scouts slapping a 60-grade plus target on his ability to hit the ball over the fence. That’s a big gap as on one end of the spectrum, you’re looking at 12-17 home runs, whereas on the other you’re talking about a guy with 25-30 dinger potential. I cowardly fall right in the middle, albeit on the higher end of the curve.
We’ll start with the body because that’s the prelude to just about any arguments for future power for a 17-year-old. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Mayer looks as though he may be done growing vertically, though the shoulders and hips suggest he’ll comfortably play pro ball in the 215 pound range.
SS Marcelo Mayer is one of the more professional hitters in the 2021 class. Has shown innate ability to go the other way w/most pitches, so much so he's been focusing on hammering the ball pull-side. Big strength. Textbook stroke here. Top 10 guy for me.pic.twitter.com/nRkUE8Ulz6— Joe (@JoeDoyleMiLB) September 12, 2020
As previously mentioned the swing is sound, though currently lacking physicality and aggression. For Mayer to reach his 25 home run potential, it’ll be paramount he produces more torque and turn on pitches with his already well-leveraged body.
Mayer already has a pretty steep swing path which bodes well for projecting out his power potential. He generates most of his power through his feet, specifically his heels right now, bypassing unrecognized strength in his core, and shooting right up through his shoulders. The building blocks are there for a more powerful swing, it’ll just come down to optimizing his kinetic sequencing.
A really good example for Mayer may be a film study on Corey Seager. The former 17th overall pick had a similar draft profile headed into 2012 — a very simple operation with an innate ability to drive the ball into the left-centerfield gap. Seager now produces torque by turning his front hip in a counter-rotation as a first load move. Seager has a lot of hip-hinge in his 6-foot-3 frame and really gets into his glutes as he drives through the ball, bracing on his front leg to create rotational force. You can see the difference in the physicality between Seager’s hips and Mayer’s hips at address below.
As an aside, I’d also like to see his front foot land a little more open to avoid future injury risk to his knees and hips.
Again, this is a current snapshot of what Mayer is, not what he could be. I’m rather bullish on the power projection right now.
Mayer is every bit the defensive shortstop that Lawlar is. The only caveat on his profile is whether he sticks at shortstop long-term. His pure ability will have nothing to do with the translation to third-base, but rather his body will. Like Manny Machado, sometimes the body just outgrows the position and is forced over to a position that better fits the skillset. Should Mayer end up a 6-foot-4-inch, 220 pound infielder, the discussion may be had.
As for his actions, there’s little doubt Mayer is a shortstop at the next level. He hovers and strides around the infield dirt with buttery-smooth actions. He’s got really quick hands, composed footwork, and plenty of arm strength. Like his offensive game, Mayer plays under-control and lets the game come to him. He never seems rushed or anxious and commands the infield.
Mayer is slick to his right, to his left, and especially coming in on the ball. His glove is effectively an extension of his barehand. He makes it look easy.
Mayer probably has a slightly better arm than Lawlar, but it’s close. In a Baseball Factory showcase in July, Mayer clocked 92 mph across the dirt, easily validating his plus arm.
Mayer has more than enough arm to make the throws in the hole and has shown the ability to throw from multiple arm angles. It’s been accurate all along the way.
There’s not much else to say in this regard. It’s a good arm that compliments his already impressive skillset beautifully.
You won’t find many 60 times for Mayer published online. He hasn’t run the 60-yard dash at many events, though he did take part in a workout for Prep Baseball Report last summer where he nabbed a 6.92 hand-timed reading. In a vacuum, this would label Mayer an average runner, and I think that’s a fair assessment both currently and moving forward.
I’ve been able to time Mayer a few times out of the box to first base and his times have ranged from 4.16 to 4.23. There’s some times in there pushing a solid-average runner, but by and large they’re average times. He’s a little slow out of the box with so much follow-through ending up in his heels, but that’s simply a byproduct of his swing and not necessarily something he should work on.
I think Mayer’s ability to run will age gracefully as he’s a long-strider that doesn’t show heavy-feet. He controls his body well.
Marcelo Mayer may not be the pure athlete that Lawlar is, but I think there’s more offensive upside in this package with the potential for a .290 hitter with 20-25 home run power. The Corey Seager discussion mentioned above might not be the worst trajectory line to track as both guys are built the same way. Seager had some of the same questions on the pull-side ability coming out of high school and has turned himself into a plus hitter with plus power. I think that’s the ceiling for Mayer, and a profile to try and mirror his game after.