DENVER — Marcelo Mayer sat around All-Stars just outside of Coors Field on Monday afternoon. The Red Sox’ first-round pick touched shoulders with them, even hugged some, including three-time All-Star Xander Bogaerts.
It was, perhaps, a look into what the future might hold for Mayer, who was projected on many draft boards to go No. 1 overall.
At least that’s what the Sox hope after they pulled off what they believed to be a steal. But that’s well into the future, and there’s no guarantee. The draft is a crapshoot. Players don’t always pan out as expected. But the flashy and confident shortstop is ready to take his chances on his backhanded play in the hole.
“It’s totally amazing,” the 18-year-old Mayer said Tuesday. “It’s a dream come true, it’s something that I’ve dreamt for my whole life. Just to be able to get the call from the Boston Red Sox, which is a franchise that’s a winning organization and has a great front office and fans, is amazing. [I’m ready to sign] as soon as possible.”
Mayer is listed at 6 feet 3 inches, 180 pounds. His wiry frame will need to add strength as Mayer says he has never lifted a weight. He and his dad, Enrique, wanted him to stay as loose as possible, but Mayer noted that as soon as he signs he will come up with a plan with the Sox’ strength coaches.
Mayer grew up a Yankees fan, much like Bogaerts, and his favorite player was Derek Jeter.
“I loved the way he carried himself on and off the field,” Mayer said. “So just with that, it kind of turned me into a Yankees fan. And you know, I love being a Boston Red Sox, too. I never disliked them.”
On his ideal timeline to reach the majors, Mayer said he is taking it day by day.
“The main goal is always to become a professional major leaguer,” he said. “But I don’t have a certain set date. I know there’s a lot of great players in the Boston organization and I know I’m going to have to work hard to get to where I want to be.”
Math works in Barnes’s favor
Part of what helped Matt Barnes reach his first All-Star appearance had much to do with 92 percent. It’s helped the stuff the Red Sox always believed in match the success he’s had as the team’s closer.
The Red Sox showed him the numbers heading into this season: Pitching coach Dave Bush and the staff told Barnes that he had a 92 percent success rate when pitching in the strike zone. Sox fans have heard this story before. Barnes has alluded to it on a number of occasions.
But there’s a larger conversation to be had surrounding the art of throwing strikes. It’s easier said than done. Certainly, it takes skill. Yankees starter Gerrit Cole said Tuesday that you must tap into the mechanical component of pitching in order to fill up the zone. But equally, though, mentality is involved.
“I think a lot of it is just trusting your stuff in the zone,” Barnes said, “and knowing that your stuff in the zone does play. You don’t have to dance around.”
Engagement is key. When hitters know a pitcher is going to be around the zone, Barnes added, they become even more tapped in during the at-bat. There’s a better chance of a hitter becoming overaggressive, leading to chases on secondary stuff — in this case Barnes’s curveball he likes to bounce with two strikes.
This season, Barnes has induced a 36.2 percent chase rate, the highest mark of his career with a minimum of 20 innings. Barnes’s 52 percent of pitches in the zone is also a career best.
The mentality to throw strikes is one component. The mechanical component is another. But there’s perspective, too. Barnes brought up Vladimir Guerrero Jr., calling him the best hitter on the planet. But Barnes added that despite Guerrero’s .332 batting average, he’s still making outs roughly around 67 percent of the time.
“Hitting is still hard,” Barnes said. “I do this and I get a positive result 92 percent of the time and he [still] gets out 67 percent of the time. When you start breaking it down like that, it just makes so much more sense.”
Eovaldi gets better taste of mix
From flamethrower to pitch mixer.
That’s the career path of Nate Eovaldi. He can still get it up to high 90s in velocity, but the pitch mix is what has separated the 31-year-old righthander from his past years in the big leagues.
“I feel like every organization I’ve been to, I’ve kind of picked up a new pitch along the way,” said Eovaldi, who has played in five organizations since debuting in 2011. “When I was with the Yankees, I picked up the splitter. The Rays, the cutter. I always had the slider and the fastball. It’s just been using them wisely in the game.”
The curveball became more a part of Eovaldi’s repertoire this year. It essentially plays as a changeup, a pitch that Eovaldi abandoned after his 2015 season with the Yankees. The difference between his curveball now and his changeup then is that there’s more of a change in movement with the curve.
Hitters are batting just .154 against Eovaldi’s curveball this year. He’s already thrown it 285 times — the most of his career — in 103⅓ innings.
The innings total and number of starts (18) are important marks for the first-time All-Star. Eovaldi hasn’t made more than 25 starts in a season since 2015.
“It’s a contribution to our staff, Alex Cora, the way he’s been managing us out there,” Eovaldi said. “Especially coming off a COVID-19 season last year.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.