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Marcelo Mayer knows he’s not replacing Xander Bogaerts soon, and that’s OK with him

Shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer is making loud contact at Greenville and showing better plate coverage — good signs in his development.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Of course Marcelo Mayer heard the noise.

This offseason, when Xander Bogaerts left the Red Sox to sign with the Padres, those in Mayer’s orbit spoke the obvious — that it made the path to Fenway Park clearer for the 20-year-old shortstop.

How often did Mayer, a San Diego native, hear those suggestions?

“Too many times. Too many times,” sighed Mayer, whom Baseball America recently ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the game. “Obviously, people think about it. You think about it. But if I start thinking about that stuff, I’m going to start pressing.

“I like just going out there, playing hard, controlling what I can control. I can’t control who’s out there and who’s not. The only thing I can control is me going out there and playing hard.”

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For now, that task hasn’t been too challenging. The volume surrounding Mayer remains controlled. He’s with High A Greenville to start the year, the same affiliate with which he played 25 games at the conclusion of the 2022 season. In the lower levels, he can experience the typical swings of a minor league season without too glaring a spotlight.

And that’s precisely what’s happened. Mayer opened the year 2 for 20 with nine strikeouts, including a four-strikeout game that compelled manager Iggy Suarez to check in with the top-ranked Red Sox prospect.

“ ‘That’s the first time you’ve ever done that, huh?’ ” Suarez recounted asking Mayer. “It was almost to say, ‘Hey, that’s going to happen. I still think you’re the best player. You should still think you’re the best player, because you are. We’re all human.’ ”

Still, the way Mayer responded speaks volumes about why he’s so highly regarded. He struggled for one more game (0 for 5), took a day off to recalibrate, then drastically changed course.

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Mayer has reached base in nine straight games since April 15, hitting .371/.476/.543 while walking as often (7 times) as he’s struck out.

“When he’s going good, he shows you everything you want to see from a player on both sides of the ball and in the clubhouse,” said Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. “He’s fun to watch all the time but he’s especially fun to watch when he’s doing everything he can do.”

Mayer had an excellent first full professional season in 2022. As a 19-year-old at Single A Salem and Greenville, he hit .280/.399/.489 with 13 homers and 45 extra-base hits in 91 games, showing skills that suggested above-average or plus potential as a hitter, power hitter, and shortstop.

In the offseason, he committed himself to improving all facets of his game. In particular, his conditioning — he missed a few weeks early in 2022 with wrist soreness — and his speed.

Atop those efforts, the Sox had him work with weighted bats to increase bat speed and generate harder contact. Already fruits of that effort appear evident, as Mayer’s top-end exit velocity has been an eye-opening 112 miles per hour — up from 108 last year.

His hot streak has been measured not only in traditional stats, but also decibels.

“It’s consistent hard contact,” Suarez said. “It’s just the sound of the bat, it’s on the barrel with a different sound. He’s got a knack for that.”

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The added strength is particularly valuable because it complements a beautiful swing with which the 2021 first-rounder can get to pitches all over the strike zone, with the ability to attack pitches down and in as well as up and away.

How does he do that?

“That’s a secret,” said Mayer before breaking into a grin. “Just kidding. I think it’s just my swing. I have a pretty flat swing that’s able to cover a lot of parts of the plate, which is what makes me successful.”

Mayer believes he can and should make progress in cutting down on his strikeouts, from a high but not outlandish 25.2 percent in 2022. That will be an area of emphasis while he remains in Greenville, navigating the fits and starts of a season.

Yet Mayer’s advanced skills and maturity suggest he’s unlikely to spend the entire season with the Drive. There’s a good chance — even a likelihood — that at some point, the Sox will challenge him with a move up to Double A Portland, at which point Fenway will come within reach.

But as he considered that proximity for the first time, Mayer did so in measured fashion. While plenty of people want to fast-forward and consider his future in Fenway, he remains grounded at something near the midpoint of his minor league development.

“For me, I’m going out there and playing and I’m being where my feet are,” he said. “I’m not really going to be thinking about Fenway when I’m in Portland. If I’m in Portland, I’m thinking about being in Portland.

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“Obviously, my goal is to be a big leaguer. I want to be there as soon as possible.

“There’s a lot of great players in this organization. So it’s not as easy as just saying, ‘Oh, I want to be in the big leagues this year.’ But I’m really excited. I worked my tail off in the offseason. I’m super excited for this season.”

Three up

▪ Portland second baseman Nick Yorke (Baseball America’s No. 7 Red Sox prospect), after a challenging 2022 season, has re-established a solid approach. Through 15 games, he’s hitting .250/.418/.442 with a sky-high 19.4 percent walk rate and reasonable 20.9 percent strikeout rate.

▪ Another Sea Dog, 24-year-old lefthander Shane Drohan (unranked), has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the minors through four starts. He has a 0.78 ERA along with a 30.6 percent strikeout rate and 4.7 percent walk rate.

▪ High A Greenville corner infielder Blaze Jordan (No. 14) is hitting .389/.421/.667 during a nine-game hitting streak to improve his season line to .271/.328/.458.

Three down

▪ While lefthander Brandon Walter (No. 10) has posted a decent 4.19 ERA through four starts in Triple A, he’s not missing bats, posting a modest 12.9 percent strikeout rate. He’s also issued as many walks (7) through 19⅓ innings as he had in 57⅓ innings in 2022.

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▪ Righthander Wikelman Gonzalez (No. 12) has struggled to throw strikes in Greenville, with more walks (16) than strikeouts (14) through four starts and a 15.58 ERA in 8⅔ innings.

▪ Middle infielder Mikey Romero (No. 6), the team’s first-round pick last year, is continuing a longer-than-expected rehab from lower back soreness. He’s engaged in baseball activities, but his hitting has been limited and there’s no timeline for him to join Salem.


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