Versatile Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela hit his first home run of the spring in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton. He actually accounted for Boston’s only two runs on one swing of the bat.
After pinch-running for Christian Arroyo in the top half of the seventh, Rafaela registered his first and only plate appearance two innings later. With one out and one runner on in the ninth, the right-handed hitter took Pirates reliever Austin Brice 399 feet deep to right-center field to make it a 6-2 game.
Rafaela, 21, has made the most out of his limited playing time this spring. Following Tuesday’s performance, the young infielder/outfielder is batting .273 (3-for-11)/.273/.636 with one double, one homer, two RBIs, four runs scored, and one stolen base over five Grapefruit League appearances.
Originally signed out of Curacao for just $10,000 in July 2017, Rafaela comes into the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the best defensive outfielder and No. 22 overall prospect in Boston’s farm system.
As that superlative suggests, Rafaela is known more for his defense than his offense. With Low-A Salem last year, the 5-foot-8, 152 pounder saw playing time at six different positions (2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF) en route to being named the Sox’ Minor League Defensive Player of the Year in September.
So far this spring, Rafaela has logged two innings at shortstop, five innings in left field, and 14 innings in center field. He has yet to commit an error at either of the three positions.
On the other side of the ball, Rafaela is coming off a 2021 campaign with Salem in which he batted .251/.305/.424 (95 wRC+) to go along with 20 doubles, nine triples, 10 home runs, 53 RBIs, 73 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 79 strikeouts across 102 games spanning 432 plate appearances.
Among qualified hitters in the Low-A East last season, Rafaela ranked 10th in strikeout rate (18.3%), 22nd in batting average, 12th in slugging percentage, 22nd in OPS (.729), 10th in isolated power (.173), second in speed score (9.0), and 29th in wRC+, according to FanGraphs.
Per his Baseball America scouting report, what makes Rafaela so dynamic defensively is his speed, which allows him to take “excellent routes and jumps on hard-to-reach contact to the outfield.” His arm strength also grades “as above-average to plus in both the infield and outfield.”
Considering that he does not turn 22 until September, there still may be some room for Rafaela to grow physically. Regardless of that, though, it would appear that the Willemstad native has the makings to be a super-utility player at the major-league level if he can reach his full potential.
Well before that happens, however, Rafaela still has to work his way up the organizational ladder. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-season with High-A Greenville.
(GIF of Ceddanne Rafaela via GIPHY)