Ceddanne Rafaela named Baseball America’s 2022 Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year

Ceddanne Rafaela was named Baseball America’s Red Sox 2022 Minor League Player of the Year on Tuesday.

That should come as no surprise. Rafaela, who just turned 22 over the weekend, entered Baseball America’s Top 100 rankings back in July and is now regarded by the publication as the No. 81 prospect in the sport

Between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland this season, Rafaela batted .299/.342/.538 (134 wRC+) with 32 doubles, 10 triples, 21 home runs, 86 RBIs, 82 runs scored, 28 stolen bases, 26 walks, and 113 strikeouts over 116 total games (522 plate appearances). The right-handed hitter slashed .278/.324/.500 (119 wRC+) with 12 homers, 50 runs driven in, 45 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 71 games (313 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs upon being promoted in early June.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela saw the majority of his playing time this season come at either shortstop or center field. In Portland in particular, the versatile 5-foot-8, 152-pounder logged 103 innings at short and 498 2/3 innings at center while making highlight reel plays at both positions.

“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 told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier recently. “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.”

The Red Sox originally signed Rafaela for just $10,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Curacao in July 2017. Shortly after the five-year anniversary of his signing passed, the Willemstad native represented Boston in the All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles.

On the heels of such an impressive minor-league season, Rafaela is a sure bet to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster this fall in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. He is also slated to play winter ball in Puerto Rico for he Criollos de Caguas, who are managed by Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez.

Alex Cora, who previously managed the Criollos and spends his off-seasons in his hometown of Caguas, told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) last week that he was looking forward to getting to know Rafaela better this winter.

“We’re going to be able to enjoy it,” Cora said. “Just try to meet him, know who he is as a person. That’s something that I’m looking forward to. We had that opportunity with Jarren (Duran) a few years ago, but it was limited because of the whole pandemic and the restrictions. But now that we can actually interact with others, it would be fun just to have him around, bring him to the house and talk to him and embrace him.”

In the meantime, Rafaela will look to lead the Sea Dogs to an Eastern League title. After winning 17 of its last 20 regular-season games, Portland opens a best-of-three playoff series against the Somerset Patriots at Hadlock Field on Tuesday night.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela to play winter ball in Puerto Rico

Versatile Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela will play for the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League this winter, the club announced on Monday.

The Criollos, who have won the last two league championships, are managed by Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez. Alex Cora, a native of Caguas himself, previously served as the team’s general manager.

Rafaela, who turns 22 next month, has never played winter ball before. The native Curacaoan is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 82 prospect in all of baseball.

The 2022 season has served as a breakout campaign for Rafaela. After being named the organization’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year last fall, the 21-year-old broke camp this spring with High-A Greenville and batted .330/.368/.594 in 45 games (209 plate appearances) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in early June.

Since then, Rafaela has slashed .279/.337/.513 with 15 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 15 walks, and 51 strikeouts over 57 games (250 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs. He has not played since last Thursday after being hit on the left wrist by a pitch in the third inning of a 9-0 win over the Hartford Yard Goats at Hadlock Field.

Among those in the Eastern League who have made at least 250 trips to the plate this season, the right-handed hitter ranks 11th in batting average, ninth in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.851), eighth in isolated power (.235), fourth in speed score (8.0), and 15th in wRC+ (128), per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela has played both shortstop and centerfield since making the jump to Portland earlier this summer. While the 5-foot-8, 152-pounder has made a habit of making highlight reel plays at either position, he also has past experience at second base, third base, left field, and right field.

Rafaela, who represented the Red Sox in last month’s All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles, has clearly come a long way since signing with Boston for a mere $10,000 out of Willemstad a little more than five years ago.

Although there are still some things he could improve upon (plate discipline, for example), it seems all but certain that Rafaela will be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November so that he can receive protection from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

In the meantime, Rafaela will be looking to end the 2022 season on a strong note. The Sea Dogs open a six-game series on the road against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Tuesday, so it should be interesting to see how soon it will be until he is able to return to the lineup.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox have No. 11 farm system in MLB, per Baseball America’s latest rankings

The Red Sox have the No. 11 farm system in Major League Baseball, according to Baseball America’s midseason organization talent rankings.

Ranking behind the likes of the Orioles, Dodgers, Guardians Diamondbacks, Reds, Rangers, Cardinals, Mets, Pirates, and Rockies, the Sox are exactly where they stood prior to Opening Day.

In their most-recent top 100 prospects rankings, Baseball America placed three Boston minor-leaguers within its top 30. Shortstop Marcelo Mayer leads the pack at No. 12, while right-hander Brayan Bello and first baseman Triston Casas follow at No. 21 and No. 28, respectively.

Ceddanne Rafaela, who is in the midst of a breakout season and represented the Red Sox at the All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles, entered Baseball America’s top 100 last month and is currently regarded as the 82nd-ranked prospect in the game.

Nick Yorke, Boston’s first-round draft selection in 2020, was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 31 prospect in baseball coming into the 2022 season but has since fallen off the list completely. He is, however, batting .294/.342/.529 (127 wRC+) in his last eight games with High-A Greenville.

Baseball America notes that Mayer “looks even more like the potential star many pegged him as in the 2021 draft,” while adding that Rafaela’s breakout “has lessened the blow” of Yorke falling off the top 100.

Beyond Mayer, Bello, Casas, Rafaela, and Yorke, “there is solid depth throughout the Red Sox system, but a majority of the upside lies among a group of teenagers in rookie ball.”

Some of those teenagers in rookie ball would include Dominican outfielder Miguel Bleis, 2022 draft selections Mikey Romero, Cutter Coffey, and Roman Anthony, right-hander Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz, and shortstops Freili Encarnacion and Luis Ravelo.

Though he is no longer in rookie ball, Blaze Jordan does not turn 20 until December and is ranked by Baseball America as the top power hitter and No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer and Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

How did Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela fare in All-Star Futures Game?

Versatile Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela made his debut in the MLB All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.

Representing the Red Sox alongside top pitching prospect Brayan Bello (who was replaced on the American League roster earlier this week), Rafaela was used as a pinch-hitter in the AL’s 6-4 victory over the National League in the seven-inning showcase.

The right-handed hitter came on for Yankees outfielder Jasson Dominguez in the top of the fourth inning and wound up going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. Defensively, Rafaela took over at shortstop for another Yankees prospect in Anthony Volpe. He had one ball hit to him — a 74 mph grounder off the bat of Logan O’Hoppe — and fielded it cleanly to record the first out of the seventh inning.

Athletics catching prospect Shea Langeliers was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after going 1-for-2 with a solo home run. Blue Jays pitching prospect Yosver Zulueta earned the winning decision.

Rafaela, meanwhile, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the 84th-ranked prospect in all of baseball.

After beginning the 2022 season at High-A Greenville, Rafaela earned a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 7. Since then, the 21-year-old has batted a stout .282/.331/.564 to go along with six doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 19 RBIs, 21 runs scored, five stolen bases, five walks, and 23 strikeouts in his first 29 games (128 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela has experience at six different positions. So far with Portland, the 5-foot-8, 152-pounder has logged nine innings at second base, 36 innings at shortstop, and 202 innings in center field, which is his best position.

Originally signed by the Red Sox for just $10,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Curacao a little more than five years ago, Rafaela — who turns 22 in September — can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the second time in his career this winter.

The Red Sox would need to add Rafaela to their 40-man roster by late November in order to prevent that from happening, which now seems all but guaranteed to happen.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Ceddanne Rafaela enters Baseball America’s top 100 prospects rankings

In the midst of a breakout season, Ceddanne Rafaela has entered Baseball America’s top-100 prospect rankings. Previously unranked, Rafaela is now regarded by Baseball America as the No. 84 prospect in all of baseball.

The Red Sox at present have five of the top 100-prospects in the game, as Rafaela joins the likes of shortstop Marcelo Mayer (No. 14), right-hander Brayan Bello (No. 24), first baseman Triston Casas (No. 29), and second baseman Nick Yorke (No. 50). Outfielder Jarren Duran was previously in the top-100 but has since graduated from his prospect status.

Boston’s reigning Minor League Defensive Player of the Year, Rafaela began the 2022 season with High-A Greenville. After posting a .729 OPS with Low-A Salem last season, the 21-year-old batted a stout .330/.368/.594 in 45 games with the Drive (he also hit for the cycle on May 17) before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 7.

Since then, the right-handed hitting Rafaela has slashed a steady .287/.331/.574 to go along with six doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 19 RBIs, 21 runs scored, five stolen bases, five walks, and 23 strikeouts across his first 28 games (125 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs. Among Eastern League hitters who have made at least 120 plate appearances to this point in the season, Rafaela ranks 13th in batting average, second in slugging percentage, ninth in OPS (.905), third in isolated power (.287), second in speed score (8.8), and 16th in wRC+ (141), per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela has continued to impress defensively while playing several positions. So far in Portland, the versatile 5-foot-8, 152 pounder has logged 36 innings at shortstop and 197 innings in center field. He showed off his athleticism by robbing Mets prospect Brandon McIlwain of a game-tying home run in the fifth inning of Portland’s 7-4 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies on Friday.

Rafaela, who turns 22 in September, has come a long way from a development standpoint since signing with the Red Sox for just $10,000 as an international free agent coming out of Curacao in July 2017. Taking that into consideration, the Willemstad native is all but a lock to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster this fall in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

Both Rafaela and Bello, who also signed with Boston in 2017, will be representing the Red Sox organization in next weekend’s All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium. Bello, of course, may not be able to attend if he is still on the big-league roster.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Brayan Bello joins Ceddanne Rafaela in representing Red Sox at All-Star Futures Game

Fresh off making his major-league debut, Brayan Bello will represent the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game for the second consecutive year, Major League Baseball announced on Thursday.

Bello, 23, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system and the 44th-ranked prospect in all of baseball. The right-hander made his first career start against the Rays at Fenway Park on Wednesday night and allowed four runs on six hits, three walks, and two strikeouts over four innings in a 7-1 loss.

Of the 79 pitches Bello threw, 45 went for strikes. He averaged 97.1 mph and topped out at 97.7 mph with his four-seam fastball while also mixing in a high-80s changeup, a high-90s sinker, and a mid-80s slider, per Baseball Savant.

Prior to getting called up for the first time on Wednesday, Bello had posted a 2.81 ERA and 2.68 FIP to go along with 72 strikeouts to 21 walks over his last nine appearances (eight starts) and 51 1/3 innings pitched since earning a promotion from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester in May.

At last year’s Futures Game at Coors Field, Bello yielded one run on one hit in two-thirds of the inning. This time around at Dodger Stadium, the Dominican-born hurler will be joined by other top pitching prospects around the American League such as the Rays’ Taj Bradley, the Mariners’ Emerson Hancock, the Rangers’ Jack Leiter, and the Yankees’ Ken Waldichuk.

In the scenario that Bello remains with the Sox through the All-Star break, he would then be replaced on the American League’s roster by another player.

Along with Bello, versatile prospect Ceddanne Rafaela will also be representing the Red Sox in Los Angeles on July 16. This will be Rafaela’s first trip to the Futures Game. The 21-year-old has burst onto the scene this season and is currently ranked by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Both Bello and Rafaela signed with the Red Sox as international free-agents coming out of the Dominican Republic and Curacao on July 2, 2017, respectively. They have never played for the same affiliate at the same time before.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Ceddanne Rafaela to represent Red Sox in All-Star Futures Game

Ceddanne Rafaela will represent the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium later this month, Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday.

Full rosters for the American and National League squads will be revealed on Thursday, but eight participants — including Rafaela — were unveiled earlier Wednesday morning on MLB Network Radio.

Rafaela, 21, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 22nd-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally signed the versatile infielder/outfielder for just $10,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Curacao in July 2017.

After earning Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors within the organization in 2021, Rafaela began the 2022 campaign at High-A Greenville. In 45 games with the Drive, the speedy right-handed hitter batted a stout .330/.368/.594 (155 wRC+) with 17 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 36 RBIs, 37 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 51 strikeouts over 209 plate appearances. He even hit for the cycle on May 17.

That level of production at High-A earned Rafaela a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 7. Since then, the Willemstad native has slashed .278/.333/.578 (143 wRC+) with five doubles, two triples, six homers, 18 RBIs, 14 runs scored, three stolen bases, five walks, and 20 strikeouts in his first 23 games (100 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

Listed at 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds, Rafaela has experience at all three outfield positions and every infield position besides first base. This season alone between Greenville and Portland, he has seen playing time at second base, third base, and (primarily) center field.

Rafaela, who turns 22 in September, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the second time in his career this winter. And, unlike last year, he now appears to be a slam dunk to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to receive Rule 5 protection.

While Rafaela may not be alone in representing the Red Sox at the All-Star Futures Game, he will definitely be heading to Los Angeles on July 16 to participate in the seven-inning showcase.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Nick Northcut named South Atlantic League Player of the Week

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Northcut has been named South Atlantic League Player of the Week for the week of June 6-12, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.

In High-A Greenville’s latest series against the Asheville Tourists at Fluor Field, Northcut went 7-for-22 (.318) with two doubles, four home runs, 11 RBIs, seven runs scored, three walks, and nine strikeouts over six games. All four of those homers were hit within a two-day stretch on Friday and Saturday.

On the 2022 campaign as a whole, the right-handed hitter is batting .231/.286/.574 with seven doubles, a team-high 20 home runs and 46 RBIs, 30 runs scored, 12 walks, and 79 strikeouts over 50 games (210 plate appearances) for the Drive. He has put up those numbers while primarily playing both corner infield positions.

Among qualified South Atlantic League hitters, Northcut ranks first in home runs, second in slugging percentage, ninth in OPS (.860), first in isolated power (.344), and 17th in wRC+ (124), per FanGraphs.

Northcut, who is celebrating his 23rd birthday on Monday, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the 60th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Ohio native was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Mason High School.

While power has been his standout tool this season, Northcut is working to become more selective at the plate. His 37.6% strikeout rate and 5.7% walk rate are among the worst marks in the Sally League, but the Red Sox have otherwise been pleased with what they have seen from the young slugger.

As he inches closer towards setting a new single-season home run record in Greenville, Northcut becomes the first member of the Drive to earn South Atlantic League Player of the Week honors since Ceddanne Rafaela did so on April 18.

Rafaela has since been promoted to Double-A Portland. Perhaps Northcut is not too far behind him.

(Picture of Nick Northcut: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Red Sox demote struggling prospect Brandon Howlett to High-A Greenville

In order to make room for the recently-promoted Ceddanne Rafaela on Double-A Portland’s roster, the Red Sox have demoted infield prospect Brandon Howlett to High-A Greenville, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Howlett, 22, has struggled with the Sea Dogs this season. Coming into play on Tuesday, the right-handed hitter was batting just .167/.278/.205 (44 wRC+) with one double, one triple, no home runs, four RBIs, five runs scored, 11 walks, and 42 strikeouts over 27 games (90 plate appearances) for Portland.

Defensively, the 6-foot-1, 205 pounder has unsurprisingly seen the majority of his playing time this year come at third base, though he has also made 10 appearances and logged 70 2/3 innings in right field for the first time in his professional career.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 21st round of the 2018 amateur draft out of George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, Fla., Howlett forwent his commitment to Florida State University to sign with Boston for $185,000.

Once regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 (2019) and No. 20 (2020) prospect in the Sox’ farm system, Howlett will now return to Greenville, where he enjoyed a moderate amount of success last season — particularly in the second half.

In September, for instance, Howlett slashed a stout .289/.373/.533 (140 wRC+) with two home runs and six RBIs over his final 12 games of the year with the Drive.

There is no doubt that Howlett, who turns 23 this September, will look to regain that kind of form and work his way back up to Portland at some point this summer.

(Picture of Brandon Howlett: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote versatile prospect Ceddanne Rafaela to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox are promoting versatile prospect Ceddanne Rafaela from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland, as confirmed by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Rafaela, 21, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The right-handed hitter began the 2022 season in Greenville and batted a stout .330/.368/.589 with 16 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 36 RBIs, 37 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 15 strikeouts over 45 games (209 plate appearances) with the Drive.

Among qualified South Atlantic League hitters, Rafaela ranks first in batting average, 23rd in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, second in OPS (.957), fourth in isolated power (.259), and ninth in stolen bases, per MiLB.com’s leaderboards.

On May 17, Rafaela became the first player in Drive history to hit for the natural cycle, as he went 4-for-5 with a first-inning single, third-inning double, seventh-inning triple, and eighth-inning home run in an 11-6 win over the Hickory Crawdads at Fluor Field.

Originally signed for just $10,000 as an international free agent coming out of Curacao in July 2017, Rafaela began to open eyes with Low-A Salem last year because of his defense. After playing six different positions (second base, third base, shortstop, left, right, and center field) in 2021, the Willemstad native was named the Red Sox’ Minor League Defensive Player of the Year in September.

So far this season, Rafaela has gotten playing time at second base, shortstop, and center field. To be exact, the 5-foot-8, 150 pounder has logged 270 1/3 innings in center while impressing the Red Sox with his defensive ability there, according to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings.

Rafaela, who turns 22 in September, will join the Sea Dogs before they open a six-game series against the Hartford Yard Goats at Hadlock Field on Tuesday night.

That the Red Sox are promoting Rafaela has deeper meaning when you consider the fact that he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December. By allowing him to face stiffer competition in Portland, Boston gets the chance to further evaluate Rafaela before deciding if he will be added to the 40-man roster by the deadline in late November.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)