The 2021 MLB Draft begins on July 11, 2021, and unlike in 2020, this will be a twenty round draft — shorter than the forty rounds the draft has been in the most recent years prior to 2020, but longer than last year’s five round version. The Rangers’ top three picks are at #2, #38, and #73.
In the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks, looking both at players who are in the mix at #2 and players who would be candidates to be picked in the second or third rounds. Today we are looking at Chula Vista, California, high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer.
Marcelo Mayer is a 6’3”, 185 lb. lefthanded hitting shortstop out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, California. Mayer has been on folks radars for years, and this past summer established himself as one of the top high school players in this year’s draft class. He was generally seen as one of the top dozen or so players in the fall, then steadily moved up draft boards to where he is now clearly in the top tier, and is the top prospect in the draft on some boards. He is committed to the University of Southern California, but the chances of him actually going there and foregoing signing with a team this summer seem extremely remote.
Mayer’s top skill is his hit tool, with BA calling him a plus hitter — the consensus seems to be that Mayer is more advanced as a hitter than fellow top of the draft prep shortstop Jordan Lawlar at this point, and MLB Pipeline praises his “advanced approach and knowledge of the strike zone” as well as his “elite bat-to-ball skills.” There’s not a ton of power at this point, but given his size and hit tool he projects to have quality in-game power as he fills out.
Mayer is a quality defender at shortstop at this point, and his arm would allow him to play any position, but he’s got average speed at best, and there are concerns that as he fills out and loses some quickness he may be better suited to third base than shortstop. The bat should be able to play at either position, but Mayer obviously has more value long-term if he’s a shortstop rather than a third baseman. That said, if Mayer can stay at shortstop into his mid-20s it isn’t really an issue for a drafting team — one of the players that I saw him comped to, Corey Seager, is currently a shortstop but likely will move to third base by the time he is 30.
To the extent that there are any knocks on Mayer, it is that he isn’t all that young for a high school draftee (he turns 19 in December), he’s got average to fringe-average speed, his power is more projection than reality right now, and he may have to move from shortstop to third base. All those are very minor quibbles, however, and the type of things that have him a consensus top 3 pick who could go first overall rather than a slam-dunk #1 overall pick.
Baseball America has Mayer at #2 on their current top 500 draft list. MLB Pipeline has Mayer at #1 on their board. Over at ESPN Kiley McDaniel has Mayer #2 on his current board. Keith Law has Mayer ranked #3 on his board. Fangraphs has Mayer as the #1 guy on their board.
The most recent mock drafts pretty much all have Mayer going to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the #1 overall pick, with the “its still early” caveats. Mayer isn’t a lock to go #1, but he seems to be the favorite at this point, and the consensus is that his floor is the Detroit Tigers at #3.
The Rangers met with Mayer when they were in Southern California a few weeks back, and he’s someone they clearly have strong interest in — I wouldn’t be shocked if he were the #1 player on their board. That said, he’s also not going to go much below slot, especially if he knows the Detroit Tigers are taking him if he is there at #3.
The Pirates may take Mayer at #1 overall, in which case the Rangers won’t have to make a decision on Mayer. If the Pirates pass on Mayer, however, Texas may have to weigh whether paying full freight for Mayer is a preferable option to taking someone they have ranked very close to Mayer — but behind him — on their board who will sign for significantly less. Kiley McDaniel, for example, says in regards to Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer:
Mayer vs. Lawlar is a question of two different types of shortstops but two with very similar overall value.
If the one you have ranked second is suddenly $1 million cheaper than the other (and you can spend that money on other draftees), a lot of minds in the industry would flip, and I think I’m one of them.
I shall be interested in seeing how this plays out.