Could Red Sox take exciting shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer with No. 4 pick in 2021 MLB Draft?

The 2021 MLB Draft is still over three months away, but with the college and high school baseball seasons in full swing across the country, some prospects are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

The Red Sox will be making their top selection in this year’s draft with the fourth overall pick, marking the first time since 1967 that the club has made its first pick that early in a draft.

Because they will make their first selection so early on in the draft process this summer, the Sox will surely have their pick of prospects to choose from outside of the players who will be taken by the Pirates, Rangers, and Tigers at picks 1, 2, and 3.

“Right now, at this point in the process, we would be scouting everyone just as hard as we possibly could,” Red Sox area scout Danny Watkins explained last month on Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast.

Earlier this week, MLB.com’s Jim Callis wrote that “it’s very possible that” Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter and Dallas Jesuit High School shortstop Jordan Lawler could be the first three players off the board in July.

That would lead up to the Sox making their first pick at No. 4, and the best player available in this scenario would be none other than Eastlake High School (Calif.) shortstop Marcelo Mayer.

In their most recent top-300 draft rankings, Baseball America had Mayer listed as their fourth-ranked draft-eligible prospect behind only Rocker, Leiter, and Lawler.

“Mayer started getting attention from scouts at Eastlake as a freshman, where he showed a smooth left-handed stick at the plate and advanced defensive actions up the middle,” BA’s Carlos Collazo wrote of the 18-year-old infielder. “Mayer is arguably the top defensive shortstop in a class that is deep at the position. He glides around the infield dirt with silky smooth actions and has the hands, footwork and arm strength to stick at the position long term. He always seems to slow the game down, and has no problem throwing from multiple angles with an accurate arm.

“Mayer also has upside offensively,” Collazo added. “He has fringe-average power now, but evaluators believe he could tap into above-average power down the line and he controls the zone well with a swing that’s leveraged for fly balls.”

Mayer, who does not turn 19 until December, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. As of April 7, the Southern California commit was slashing .381/.600/.761 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and six stolen bases through his first eight games of the year for Eastlake, per MaxPreps.

As their fourth-ranked draft prospect, Baseball America also had Mayer going to the Red Sox at No. 4 in their most recent mock draft from March 29.

“It seems like Mayer is the clear No. 4 after the top trio of players on the board,” Collazo wrote of the California native. “Whether he is in the mix of the top tier or just on the cusp of joining that top tier is still to be determined. Some scouts believe he has a chance to be the best pure hitter in the draft — college or high school — and with an impressive glove at a premium position, that gives him a two-way toolset that shouldn’t last long on the board.”

Collazo added that “at the moment, it seems like the ‘place to pick’ in this year’s draft class is either No. 3 or 4.”

Last year, in Chaim Bloom’s first draft as Red Sox chief baseball officer, Boston had to wait until pick No. 17 to make their first pick. This year, that wait will be a lot shorter.

“You don’t have control over who’s picked ahead of you at 17,” Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier last month. “You’ve got to cover a wider pool of players. This year, we get to make the decision: Let’s figure out who is in our top five, six, seven, eight — whatever number you want to throw out — and scout those players really, really hard.”

The Sox will have more of a chance to get a look at Mayer — as well as the other top high school talent expected to comprise this year’s draft class — at the first-ever MLB Draft Combine, which is slated to take place in Cary, N.C. from June 20 through June 28.

Per Collazo, the combine will feature “the top 88 high school players eligible for the 2021 draft,” all of whom will partake in an eight-game tournament as well as a “pro-style workout.”

Also, for what it’s worth, the recommended slot value assigned to the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft is approximately $6.64 million.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Bodie De Silva, SBLive)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Area scout Danny Watkins joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox area scout Danny Watkins, who covers Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee for the team.

Among the topics Danny and I discussed are what it’s like to be an amateur scout for a Major League Baseball team, how the scouting landscape has changed in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, what it was like scouting Mookie Betts out of high school, how preparations are being made for the 2021 draft, how it is scouting Vanderbilt University’s Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Danny for taking some time out of his busy scouting schedule to have a conversation with me.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Jack Leiter, potential Red Sox draft target, strikes out 16, tosses no-hitter for Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt University right-hander and 2021 draft prospect Jack Leiter made history on Saturday, as he became the first pitcher in school history to throw a regular season no-hitter since 1971.

Making his fifth start of the season against South Carolina in Nashville on Saturday afternoon, the 20-year-old hurler walked the very first batter of the game before retiring the next 27 Gamecocks he faced in order.

In addition to yielding no hits and just one walk over nine nearly-perfect innings of work, Leiter struck out a career-high 16 batters while also inducing eight flyouts and three groundouts.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 124 (81 strikes), the New Jersey native improved to 5-0 on the season while the Commodores improved to 15-2 and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.

Through five starts now, Leiter owns a miniscule ERA of 0.31 over 29 total innings pitched since the college baseball season began last month.

The draft-eligible sophomore, formerly drafted by the Yankees out of high school in 2019, was already one of the hottest prospects at the top of this year’s amateur draft class, and his performance on Saturday highlighted just how high his ceiling is.

Baseball America has Leiter — the son and nephew of former major-league pitchers Al and Mark Leiter — as their No. 5 prospect headed into this July’s first-year player draft.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, “the 6-foot, 195 pound righty has an above-average fastball that gets into the mid 90s at its best, and he throws both four- and two-seam variations. On top of that, Leiter has a big, downer curveball with a high spin rate that projects as a plus offering, in addition to a slider and changeup that round out his repertoire.”

The Red Sox, coming off a 2020 season in which they finished with the fourth-worst record in baseball (24-36), own the fourth overall selection in this year’s July draft.

Because they will be picking so high this year (2021 will be the first time they’ve had a top-five draft pick since 1967), Boston is in more control of who exactly they want to select and who they will eventually be selecting at No. 4 — a potential franchise-altering pick — in just under four months.

“You don’t have control over who’s picked ahead of you at 17,” Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni recently told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. “You’ve got to cover a wider pool of players. This year, we get to make the decision: Let’s figure out who is in our top five, six, seven, eight — whatever number you want to throw out — and scout those players really, really hard.”

Along with Leiter, other college pitchers the Sox could target at No. 4 include fellow Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker and Louisiana State University righty Jaden Hill, though restrictions put in place as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic limit how thoroughly the club can evaluate these prospects.

“Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, I won’t be at every game but I will watch every one of their starts [on video],” Toboni said. “We’ll probably have a scout at close to every one of their starts. That’s partly because they’re really good players and it’s also partly because Vanderbilt is only allowing one scout from each club at every game. In order to have seven or eight evaluations, we sort of have to.”

One scout in particular who will be monitoring Rocker and Leiter closely between now and July will be area scout Danny Watkins, who covers Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee for the Sox. He is probably most known for signing Mookie Betts out of high school in 2011.

“I’m a duck in water again,” Watkins told Speier. “I get to do all these things that kind of get me going… It’s exciting. You really get to kind of shoot for the moon a little bit.”

The college baseball season runs through late June, and the potential remains for the Red Sox to take a prep prospect — like high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer — at No. 4 as well, so this is not to say we know who exactly Boston will be taking with their top pick come July 11.

It’s just that, with the MLB Draft only being a few months away, “the process of identifying targets for the draft” — as Speier put it — “is well underway.”

(Picture of Jack Leiter: Vanderbilt Athletics)