Sea Dogs shortstop Marcelo Mayer steps to the plate during a game against Hartford in Portland on Tuesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

When asked what he likes most about playing in Portland, Sea Dogs shortstop Marcelo Mayer tried to give a deadpan answer. But he couldn’t commit to the bit.

“I’d say the biggest thing is the weather,” said the 21-year-old shortstop from Chula Vista, California, before immediately taking a step back and laughing. “Nah, I’m kidding. It’s cold as hell.”

It’s easy for Mayer to laugh off the typical early spring chills in Maine now that the weather is warmer and he doesn’t need to layer up for night games.

And even with stiff, cold hands early in the season, Mayer has swung a hot bat.

Coming off a 2023 season that ended in early August because of inflammation in his left shoulder, Mayer is showing the promise and potential that led the Boston Red Sox to select him with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft – the organization’s highest draft pick in 54 years.

After a 10-1 loss to the Hartford Yard Goats on Thursday at Hadlock Field, Mayer was leading the team in batting average (.302), runs (32) and stolen bases (9). He was second in home runs (4) and RBI (21). His 17 doubles lead all of minor league baseball.


The more Mayer continues to play well, the less likely it is he’ll be playing at Hadlock Field much longer. Ranked as the No. 12 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, Mayer is the top prospect in the Red Sox system. MLB Pipeline charts the top prospects for minor league baseball.

There’s a good chance he could move up the ladder soon to Triple-A Worcester.

Warm weather always brings big crowds out to see the Sea Dogs. Families come to Hadlock looking to be entertained. Right now, though, going to a game means getting the chance to see Mayer and several other players who could be big stars in the future.

Five of Boston’s top six prospects are playing for the Sea Dogs, according to MLB Pipeline’s calculations. The list includes center fielder Roman Anthony (No. 2), catcher Kyle Teel (No. 3), right-handed pitcher Wikelman Gonzalez (No. 5) and second baseman Nick Yorke (No. 6).

They’re bringing Boston media up to Portland to see for themselves.


Just before Tuesday’s doubleheader, the hosts of Section 10, a podcast dedicated to Boston Red Sox talk, came to Hadlock to conduct interviews. With the Red Sox struggling to keep pace in the American League East, reporters from the Boston Globe and have visited Portland to take a look at the team’s talented future reinforcements.

Mayer is driving much of that attention, as Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Jon Lester, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers did when they were Sea Dogs on their way to the majors.

Betts made his much-anticipated Sea Dogs debut in 2014. A rising prospect through the Sox system at the time, he was called up to Triple-A early that June.

Mayer, who made his Sea Dogs debut on May 31, 2023, has already been in Portland longer than Betts, but the chance to see him play here may be fleeting.

“He (Mayer) continues to improve,” Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham said in a text message. “Getting stronger, swinging faster, better (strike) zone control and impacting the baseball consistently.”

He’s no longer worried that his shoulder will hurt every time he moves, as it did last summer. He doesn’t feel it when he does something routine like brushing his teeth, or even now when he lifts weights.


“He’s healthy. The shoulder’s not bothering him. His bat speed is in check. He’s swinging at really good pitchers,” said Sea Dogs Manager Chad Epperson.

It’s been almost a year in Double-A for Mayer, who was promoted to Portland on May 30, 2023, and began his Sea Dogs stint on the road against the Somerset Patriots before making his Hadlock debut a week later.

“It’s back to 100%,” Mayer said of the injury that ended his 2023 season on Aug. 3. “My body feels the best it’s felt in a while, so that’s a good thing. … I love this team. I love this coaching staff. I love just playing ball here.”

That much is evident in Mayer’s play. He has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games, going 22 for 61 in that stretch. His home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning in a 5-1 victory in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader had an exit velocity of 110 mph – a line drive, no-doubt shot down the right-field line that showcased his bat speed.

Many of Mayer’s outs are coming on well-hit balls. Two in Game 2 on Tuesday night were line drives to center field, one stopped by Hartford’s Bladimir Restituyo in a sliding catch in the left-center gap.


Mayer said he’s focused on keeping things simple. Go to the plate with discipline, and when he gets a pitch to drive, take advantage and do damage.

“If you go up there clueless with no approach, you’re going to get exposed,” he said. “The biggest thing is have an approach, stick with your approach and know the player you are. If you do that, you’re going to be successful.”

It wasn’t so easy for him to do last summer after he made the jump to Double-A.

At High-A Greenville, Mayer hit seven home runs and drove in 34 runs in 35 games, but in his two months with the Sea Dogs last season, he struggled. In 43 games, he managed to hit just .189, with six home runs, 20 RBI and 49 strikeouts in 190 plate appearances.

At the time, he looked like a player struggling to adjust to better competition. In hindsight, it was a case of him trying to play through an injury.

Sea Dogs shortstop Marcelo Mayer watches the game against Hartford from the dugout at Hadlock Field on Tuesday. Mayer, the top prospect in the Red Sox minor league system, is heating up in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“I think it was more of the shoulder. The only reason I say that is when something like that is bothering you, that’s your whole focal point,” Epperson said. “I don’t think at any point was it, ‘Am I learning at this level?’ I just think he was like, ‘I can’t get right.’ He tried to play through it, and we all know it’s hard to do that. … When you’re young and you focus on hitting, you know if you don’t have the bat speed and the bat path, it carries on to everything.”


For Mayer, the lesson from the 2023 season is to ask for help when he feels off. He said one of the reasons his stolen bases are up this season is because he’s not concerned that sliding or diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt will aggravate his shoulder. Last season, he thought he was playing sore when he was actually playing injured.

“As a player, you need to know the difference between if you’re banged up or really injured. That’s something I learned last year,” he said. “I was injured, and when you’re playing injured, it affects not (just) stuff on the field but off the field, too.”

Thursday’s matinee gave Mayer a total of 81 games in Portland, half a major league season. He played 60 games at High-A Greenville before coming to Portland. There’s no timetable for his promotion to Triple-A Worcester.

So for now, in front of Maine crowds, he’ll continue playing ball and enjoying what he loves about Portland – the food.

“I love seafood – a lot of oysters, a lot of lobster,” he said. “I’ve just got to continue doing what I’m doing: good contact, swing at good pitches, try to get my walks up a little bit.”

And putting on a show for Sea Dogs fans.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.