Ever since he was drafted two summers ago, Marcelo Mayer has been the big name in the Red Sox farm system. He hasn’t always been the clear-cut, consensus top prospect in that time, as, when he first debuted, many evaluators kept Triston Casas in the number one slot with Mayer just behind him. But that was merely the product of extreme prudence. Mayer was the consensus best player in the entire 2021 draft, a sweet-swinging shortstop with a surprisingly high floor for a high schooler and the ceiling of a star. From a pedigree and talent standpoint, he represented the most enticing Red Sox prospect since Andrew Benintendi.
As recently as two months ago, it didn’t seem conceivable that the top prospect at the end of the 2023 campaign would be anybody but Mayer. And if you had predicted such back in April, what you really would’ve been predicting was that either (a) Mayer would have a disastrous or potentially injury-plagued 2023, or (b) Miguel Bleis reaaaallllly took off in his first season of affiliated ball.
Neither one of those scenarios has played out. Mayer was outstanding in his final stint at single-A Greenville, and while he’s struggled to adjust to AA, he’s also had plenty of successes there already. Bleis, meanwhile, was injured early, making 2023 a lost developmental year for him. And yet, here we are midway through the season, and Marcelo Mayer is no longer the consensus top prospect in the Sox system. That’s thanks to the meteoric rise of Roman Anthony.
Roman Anthony did not begin the year on a single top-100 prospect list. In Baseball America’s preseason rankings, he was judged just the eighth-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. On SoxProspects.com, he began the year outside the top-10 at #11. But three-and-a-half months later, not only has Anthony cracked every major top-100 list, but he’s hurtling towards the very top. He first appeared on the Baseball America list in June, when he was pegged at #95. Just a few weeks later, they moved him up to #35. They’re excited about him! But not nearly as excited as Baseball Prospectus, who just named Anthony the #9 prospect in all of baseball, one spot ahead of Marcelo Mayer, of all people.
It’s very rare for a prospect to make such a surging rise in just a matter of months. But there is some precedent for this involving the Red Sox. At the beginning of the 2013, one Mookie Betts did not appear on a single top-100 list. By the start of the 2014 season, he was a consensus top-30 guy, and he ended up as a top-10 or top-5 prospect by the time he made his MLB debut a few months later. But even there, Betts’ rise took place over the course of a one-and-a-half seasons. Anthony’s done it in months.
So, let’s get to know the kid.
Who is he and where did he come from?
He’s Roman Anthony, and the Sox drafted him in the second round of the 2022 draft, via a pick they earned as compensation for losing Eduardo Rodriguez in free agency. Anthony came out of Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida which, yes, is that Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in that Parkland, Florida. Anthony was not yet a student there when the school became the site of a gruesome shooting that galvanized a massive wave of advocacy for stricter gun control laws which has had absolutely no effect whatsoever on actually implementing stricter gun control laws.
What position does he play?
He’s a centerfielder right now, though most evaluators believe his future is in a corner spot. This probably means left field rather than right, as his arm, while not bad, is not necessarily one of his strengths.
Why are people so excited about him?
The conversations about Anthony almost always center around one of two things: his massive power, and his advanced approach at the plate. When he first started cracking prospect lists in early June, it caught a number of people by surprise because, frankly, his stats at low-A were not that impressive; he hit just .228 in Salem with one single homer in 42 games. But what the scouts were seeing — and what the batted-ball data confirmed — was that Anthony was POUNDING the ball. His exit velocity was well over the 90th percentile across all levels of the minors, and was as good as some of the best power hitters in the Majors. The only problem was that he wasn’t getting the ball in the air enough.
The Sox promoted him to Greenville anyway because, not only was he making great contact, but his approach was far too advanced for low-A, as evidenced by the fact that his .228 batting average was accompanied by a .376 OBP. Since his promotion, he’s been on an absolute tear, and the numbers have started to match the tools. In 21 games in Greenville, he’s already hit 8 homers, 6 doubles, and he’s slashing an absurd .338/.484/.770. He also has nearly as many walks as strikeouts, which is some straight-up Juan Soto shit (well, not quite: Juan Soto has actually had more walks that strikeouts in each of the last four seasons. Juan Soto is amazing.)
Show me a cool highlight.
Do opposite field homers over the Monster get you excited?
When is he going to be on the Red Sox?
Honestly, it’s hard to say with guys who progress this quickly. He probably won’t make it to AA this season. The jump from high-A to AA jump is probably the toughest leap in the minors right now (see Mayer, Marcelo), and the Sox will likely want to be cautious with him and see how he adjusts when he inevitably hits a slump. And further, he does have one glaring hole to work on: hitting left-handed pitching. He has no homers against lefties this year and is slashing an abysmal .121/.348/.152 against them. Moreover, he somehow has only faced a lefty 46 times this year; that’s just not enough development time.
But having said that, Portland’s outfield is easily the weakest part of its roster, and if Anthony is still slugging over .600 in a month or so, it would be hard to justify keeping him down.
Regardless, barring an injury set-back or massive slump, he very well could start the 2024 season in Portland. So if everything goes absolutely right, he could conceivably make his MLB debut as a 20-year-old some time in the second half of next season. But that’s unlikely. We’re probably talking about some time in 2025 at the earliest.
Just curious, are there any funny TikToks of him looking like an awkward teenager floating around?
That’s a really weird question, but yes! There are! Here you go, the future of the Red Sox, wearing loafers and dancing in a high school library: