Which Red Sox prospects are next in line to be called up?

Which Red Sox prospects are next in line to be called up? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Red Sox added another homegrown talent to the mix Monday when they promoted prized prospect Ceddanne Rafaela to the big-league club.

Rafaela is the No. 3 ranked prospect in Boston's system and the No. 76 prospect in MLB, according to MLB Pipeline. The toolsy outfielder hopes to stick around and become a key part of a young Red Sox core that includes outfielder Jarren Duran, first baseman Triston Casas, and right-hander Brayan Bello.

The youth movement should continue in 2024 with several intriguing prospects awaiting their call to The Show. Here are five players we could see on the big-league club by this time next year (all prospect rankings via MLB Pipeline).

Shane Drohan, LHP

Red Sox Prospect Ranking: No. 18

MLB ETA: Mid 2024

Although Wikelman Gonzalez and Luis Perales are ranked higher, Drohan is the Red Sox pitching prospect closest to reaching the majors. The 24-year-old was lights out for Double-A Portland earlier this year, posting a 5-0 record with a 1.32 ERA and 0.82 WHIP through six starts. His impressive performance led to a promotion to Triple-A Worcester, where there have been some growing pains.

Drohan has a 6.39 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 18 games (17 starts) for the WooSox. He has struggled mightily with his command, walking 51 batters and striking out 86 in 81.2 innings.

Obviously, those numbers will need to improve before the Red Sox consider calling him up. But if Drohan can hit his stride in Triple-A, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him pitching out of the big-league bullpen at some point in 2024

Bryan Mata, RHP

Red Sox Prospect Ranking: No. 23

MLB ETA: Late 2024

Injuries have plagued Mata, who was once considered the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox' system. The 24-year-old right-hander hasn't pitched since May 9 due to a shoulder issue. He also missed the entire 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Mata's unavailability has caused him to slide down prospect rankings, though there's no denying his lofty potential if he's healthy. He consistently tops 100 mph with his four-seam fastball and hits the high 90s with a filthy two-seamer. When he's on, he can rack up the strikeouts with a wipeout slider.

Whether or not Mata earns a promotion next season will likely depend on his health. If he returns to the WooSox to begin 2024 and looks more like himself, we could see him in Boston as early as next summer.

Nick Yorke, 2B

Red Sox Prospect Ranking: No. 6

MLB ETA: Late 2024

Yorke was selected in the first round (17th overall) of the 2020 MLB Draft. The 21-year-old was the Red Sox' Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 but failed to build off that impressive season in 2022.

He has bounced back this year at Double-A Portland. Through 96 games, Yorke is slashing .280/.357/.459 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs.

We still have to see how Yorke fares against Triple-A pitching, so an early 2024 call-up is probably out of the question. But with Luis Urias set to be the only other second baseman on the Red Sox roster, Yorke is a candidate to make his big-league debut next season if he stays hot in Worcester.

Marcelo Mayer, SS

Red Sox Prospect Ranking: No. 1

MLB ETA: Late 2024/Early 2025

Mayer was the fourth overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft but was widely considered the best player in his class. The 20-year-old shortstop was promoted to Double-A Portland in late May after dominating at High-A Greenville. He hasn't enjoyed the same success so far with the Sea Dogs.

Through 43 games at Portland, Mayer is hitting .189/.254/.355 with six homers and 20 RBIs. He hasn't played since Aug. 2 due to a shoulder injury.

Mayer is bound to find his groove at Double-A when he returns, but he'll have to pass another test next year at Worcester before making his much-anticipated big-league debut. Once considered a potential 2024 call-up, Mayer's injury and Double-A struggles may have delayed his promotion until 2025.

Nathan Hickey, C

Red Sox Prospect Ranking: No. 15

MLB ETA: Late 2024/Early 2025

The Red Sox selected Hickey out of Florida in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. The 23-year-old is a bat-first catcher who could change positions at the big-league level.

Hickey has put up big offensive numbers in Portland this year. In 66 games for the Red Sox' Double-A affiliate, the left-handed hitter has a .274/.360/.506 slash line with 14 homers and 44 RBIs.

The Red Sox' system lacks catching depth, so Hickey could quickly rise through the minor-league ranks if he keeps up his torrid pace at the plate. With Reese McGuire set to become a free agent this offseason, the door is open for Hickey to impress at Triple-A next year and eventually debut with the MLB club.