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Alex Speier | Minor details

Is there such a thing as having too many shortstops in one minor league system?

The Red Sox selected high school shortstop Mikey Romero in the first round of this year's draft.Orange Lutheran High School

Can there be such a thing as too many shortstops in a minor league system?

That question emerged when the Red Sox took a pair of high school shortstops — first-rounder Mikey Romero out of Orange Lutheran (Calif.) High and second-rounder Cutter Coffey out of Liberty (Calif.) High — with their first two picks in the draft.

Those two, after all, followed the selection in recent years of two other California high school shortstops at the top of the draft, the Sox having taken Marcelo Mayer out of Eastlake in San Diego in 2021 and Nick Yorke out of Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) in 2020.

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So, the Red Sox have a type. But is there such a thing as adding too many shortstops, especially at once?

“If [the Sox had] drafted five more [shortstops], I probably would have had something to say. We were certainly getting close to that point of, ‘Hey!’ ” mused farm director Brian Abraham. “I certainly don’t want to say we can just take all [shortstops in a draft], but having more than just one or two I think is beneficial to the long term.”

Recent Red Sox history can help to explain such a perspective.

In the span of a couple of weeks in the late summer of 2009, the Red Sox signed three shortstops as international amateur free agents. They reached agreement with José Iglesias on a four-year, $8.25 million major league deal that included a $6 million signing bonus. They then conferred a $1.95 million bonus on Jose Vinicio, a rail-thin but projectable shortstop from the Dominican Republic. Soon thereafter, the Sox finalized an agreement with a 16-year-old shortstop from Aruba for $410,000.

Iglesias got to the big leagues, splitting time at short and third in 2013, then got traded for Jake Peavy, a key contributor to the 2013 World Series. Vinicio never gained weight, dealt with numerous injuries, and was released before reaching the big leagues. But Xander Bogaerts, whom many expected to outgrow shortstop, instead stayed at the position and emerged as the franchise’s cornerstone player.

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Mookie Betts was drafted as a shortstop in 2011 before making the switch to the outfield.Brian Gomsak for The Boston Globe

Fast forward to 2011, when the Red Sox drafted an undersized shortstop who made three errors in his first professional game at the position and then six more in 13 games the next summer in Lowell. Despite that initial struggle, Mookie Betts dazzled as a prospective Gold Glove winner once he moved to second base, and then became a five-time Gold Glover in right once he moved to the outfield.

Few players make it all the way through the minors at the position where they start their careers. But those who start as shortstops usually have the best all-around defensive skill sets and the most athleticism, giving them a chance to advance at short or become very good defensive players at other positions.

“Part of the reason why we often times don’t take a ton of DHs is because it’s tough to get a DH to play shortstop, but it’s easy to get a shortstop to play other positions — or easier,” said Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni.

Meanwhile, in the lower levels of the minors, the issue of playing time bottlenecks at a position rarely proves significant, as this year’s Single A Salem Red Sox roster demonstrates.

The Sox feature three standout middle infielders in Salem: Mayer, as well as 20-year-olds Eddinson Paulino (viewed by some evaluators as a top-10 prospect in the Sox system) and Brainer Bonaci (a top-30 prospect in the system).

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Mayer has played exclusively at short. But he missed time this year with injuries, and, when healthy, the Sox have managed his workload in his first full year of pro ball by giving him regular days off and days at designated hitter. With teams measuring the playing time of young players in the lower minors, logjams are rarely an issue.

“It’s certainly not the easiest for the managers to make sure everyone is getting their reps, but the way the minor league system works and the system works, it allows us to pick and choose [how to get everyone playing time] because guys aren’t playing six or seven days a week,” explained Abraham.

Meanwhile, teams are also increasingly comfortable cultivating versatility near the start of players’ minor league careers, a reflection of a game where players are moving all over the field in the big leagues, as well.

Paulino, who was primarily a middle infielder when he turned pro, has added third base and outfield to his résumé.

“I’ve used it as an opportunity to play more often,” Paulino, who appears to be starting a Ceddanne Rafaela-esque super-utility track, said through translator Juan Cero earlier this year. “I’m all about it.”

Bonaci, primarily a shortstop entering this year, has spent most of his time at second base this year, though he’s also spent 15 games at short this year and additional time at third.

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Marcelo Mayer was the Red Sox' top draft pick in 2021.Salem Red Sox

Meanwhile, both could soon see more time at shortstop. Mayer, who is hitting .297/.395/.517 with eight home runs and 30 extra-base hits in 53 games, entered the minor league break by hitting .400/.537/.650 over a dozen games in July. While he’ll return to Salem to open the second half, he seems like a strong candidate for a promotion in the coming weeks.

“Right now, we see him in Salem, but that’s not to say that couldn’t change in the near future,” said Abraham. “These guys often tell us when they’re ready. I think Marcelo is yelling at us. It’s been fun to watch, fun to see him progress and improve.”

And when Mayer does move up, the Sox will be happy that they have more legitimate big league prospects to field at a key position, continuing the development of players whose ability to play shortstop simply creates a number of paths for future big league contributions.

“You have to take advantage of the opportunity to get really good players,” said Abraham. “A lot of those players tend to be at [shortstop].”


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.