Red Sox add 5 prospects, including Ceddanne Rafaela and Brandon Walter, to 40-man roster to protect them from Rule 5 Draft

The Red Sox have selected five prospects to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft, the club announced earlier Tuesday evening.

Left-handers Chris Murphy and Brandon Walter, super-utility player Ceddanne Rafaela, outfielder Wilyer Abreu, and infielder David Hamilton were all added. In order to make room for these five on the 40-man roster, which sat at 37 players coming into Tuesday’s deadline, right-hander Jake Reed and catcher Caleb Hamilton were both designated for assignment.

Murphy, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking third among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally selected the Californian-born southpaw in the sixth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of San Diego.

In 15 appearances (13 starts) with Double-A Portland to begin the 2022 minor-league season, Murphy posted a 2.58 ERA and 3.35 FIP with 91 strikeouts to 31 walks over 76 2/3 innings of work. He was promoted to Triple-A Worcester in late June and pitched to a 5.50 ERA (5.26 FIP) with 58 strikeouts to 41 walks in 15 starts (75 1/3 innings) for the WooSox.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Murphy operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 92-94 mph fastball that can reach 96-97 mph, an 83-85 mph changeup, a 73-76 mph curveball, and an 80-84 mph slider.

Walter, 26, is ranked right behind Murphy as Baseball America’s No. 9 Red Sox prospect. The University of Delaware product was taken by Boston in the 26th round of the 2019 draft and burst onto the scene last year. He began the 2022 campaign in Portland and produced a 2.88 ERA (2.73 FIP) with 68 strikeouts to just three walks in his first nine starts (50 innings) with the Sea Dogs.

That level of performance netted Walter a promotion to Worcester in late May. But the 6-foot-2, 200-pound lefty made just two starts for the WooSox before a bulging cervical disk prematurely ended his season in early June. Walter works with a 90-93 mph heater that tops out at 95 mph, an 80-83 mph changeup, and an 80-83 mph slider. If healthy, he could provide the Red Sox with starting rotation depth next season.

Rafaela is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 78 prospect in all of baseball. The Red Sox originally signed the versatile 22-year-old for just $10,000 as an international free agent in July 2017. He has since emerged as one of the organization’s brightest prospects and was alone in representing the Sox at this year’s All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles.

After earning Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors for the first time in 2021, Rafaela could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster but was instead left off. The major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft was then cancelled as a result of the ongoing lockout, meaning other teams would not have the opportunity to pry Rafaela away from the Red Sox.

Rafaela broke minor-league camp with High-A Greenville this spring. The right-handed hitter batted .330/.368/.594 with 17 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 36 RBIs, 37 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 51 strikeouts in 45 games (209 plate appearances) with the Drive.

Upon making the jump from High-A to Double-A in early June, Rafaela proceeded to slash .278/.324/.500 with 15 doubles, six triples, 12 homers, 50 runs driven in, 45 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 16 walks, and 62 strikeouts over 71 games (313 plate appearances). Though his production at the plate dipped with the Sea Dogs, Rafaela still led all Red Sox minor-leaguers with 63 extra-base hits and was the only member of the organization to put together a 20-20 season.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela saw the majority of his playing time in Portland come in center field. The 5-foot-8, 152-pounder logged 498 2/3 innings and recorded three outfield assists in center while also logging 103 innings at shortstop.

“I truly believe this: You put him in the big leagues right now, he wins the Gold Glove as an outfielder,” Red Sox infield coordinator Darren Fenster said of Rafaela, who was named the organization’s Defensive Player of the Year for a second time back in September. “He’s not there yet as an infielder, but talent-wise and with some more reps and some more polish, he has Gold Glove potential as a shortstop as well. It’s wild the talent that this kid has.”

Abreu, 23, was one of two prospects the Red Sox acquired from the Astros in the August trade that sent Christian Vazquez to Houston. The other prospect from that deal (Enmanuel Valdez) was added to the 40-man roster last Thursday so that he would not become a minor-league free agent.

As for Abreu, Baseball America currently ranks the native Venezuelan as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The left-handed hitting outfielder closed out the 2022 season by batting .242/.399/.375 with five doubles, four home runs, 19 RBIs, 25 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 36 walks, and 45 strikeouts across 40 games (168 plate appearances) with Portland. He also played in the Arizona Fall League and made appearances at both corner outfield spots for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Hamilton is undoubtedly the most surprising addition listed here. The 25-year-old was acquired from the Brewers alongside Alex Binelas and Jackie Bradley Jr. in last December’s Hunter Renfroe trade. He spent the entirety of his first season in the Red Sox organization in Portland.

With the Sea Dogs, the left-handed hitting Hamilton batted .251/.338/.402 with 16 doubles, nine triples, 12 home runs, 42 RBIs, 81 runs scored, a franchise-record 70 stolen bases, 56 walks, and 119 strikeouts over 119 games spanning 531 trips to the plate. He is capable of playing adequate defense at either second base or shortstop.

Given that his speed is his standout tool, Hamilton’s addition to the 40-man roster may have something to do with the rule changes that are coming to Major League Baseball. Larger bases, a pitch timer, limiting throws to first base, and limits on defensive shifts certainly make speedsters such as Hamilton more appealing moving forward.

Following Tuesday’s series of moves, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is at full capacity. That will likely change between now and the non-tender deadline on Friday.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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