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’ Brian Abraham on Nick Yorke playing in Arizona Fall League: ‘He’s continued to improve in the second half, and this would be an opportunity to continue that’

Second baseman Nick Yorke will be among the 12 youngest prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League this year, according to Baseball America.

Yorke, 20, was one of eight Red Sox prospects named to the Scottsdale Scorpions’ preliminary roster this past Friday. He is slated to the join the likes of right-handers Aaron Perry, Thaddeus Ward, Jacob Webb, and Ryan Zeferjahn, catcher Stephen Scott, first baseman Niko Kavadas, and outfielder Wilyer Abreu in Arizona next month.

Originally selected by Boston in the first round of the 2020 draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif), Yorke entered 2022 as a consensus top-100 prospect after earning Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honors in his first full professional season.

Journeying back to High-A Greenville to kick off the 2022 campaign, Yorke got off to a slow start. The right-handed hitting infielder batted .245/.319/.361 (89 wRC+) with just nine extra-base hits in his first 34 games before being placed on the injured with turf toe towards the end of May.

Yorke returned to the Greenville lineup on June 7, going 1-for-4 with a run scored and two strikeouts in a 6-3 loss to the Asheville Tourists. He then missed an additional two weeks because of back stiffness.

From June 21-July 3, Yorke went 7-for-39 (.205) at the plate with 13 strikeouts and three walks. His next in-game appearance did not come until after the All-Star break, as the native Californian was experiencing left wrist soreness that the Red Sox wanted to be cautious about.

From July 22 through the end of the season, Yorke was a regular in the Drive lineup who appeared in 35 of their final 40 games. He hit just .224 over that stretch, though he did slash a more respectable .320/.414/.480 (148 wRC+) in six September contests.

Put it all together, and it was a sophomore slump of sorts for Yorke. In 80 real games, he posted a .231/.3o3/.365 line to go along with 10 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 45 runs driven, 48 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 94 strikeouts across 373 total trips to the plate.

Although his 84 wRC+ indicates he was a below-average hitter this season, internal metrics show that Yorke was better than the numbers suggest, according to Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham.

In a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, Abraham revealed that the motive behind sending Yorke to Arizona simply goes back to getting him more at-bats after an injury-plagued season that did not yield great results.

“We have some things we were working with him on that we want to see through in the Fall League,” said Abraham. “He’s continued to improve in the second half, and this would be an opportunity to continue that.”

Yorke, who committed just one error in 593 1/3 defensive innings at second base this season, will be competing with other infielders such as the Braves’ Cal Conley, the Angels’ Kyren Paris, and the Orioles’ Cesar Prieto for playing time at the keystone position. It also helps that he will have direct access to Triple-A Worcester assistant hitting coach Michael Montville, who will be a member of the Scorpions’ coaching staff.

The 2022 Arizona Fall League season begins on October 3 and concludes with the championship game on Nov. 12 at Scottsdale Stadium, which is where the Scorpions will play their home games.

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

Red Sox promote infield prospect Matthew Lugo to Double-A Portland

In a series of minor-league transactions made on Friday, the Red Sox promoted infield prospect Matthew Lugo from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland.

Lugo, 21, will start at second base and bat sixth in his Double-A debut as the Sea Dogs go up against the Somerset Patriots at TD Bank Ballpark on Friday night.

Originally selected in the second round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico, Lugo — the nephew of the former All-Star outfielder — forwent his commitment to the University of Miami by signing with the Red Sox for $1.1. million. He is now regarded by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

In 114 games with the Drive this season, Lugo batted a stout .288/.344/.500 to go along with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 18 home runs, 78 RBIs, 76 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, 35 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 512 plate appearances. He was named South Atlantic League Player of the Month in August.

Among qualified South Atlantic League hitters, the right-handed hitting Lugo ranked 12th in strikeout rate (19.5%), sixth in batting average, 27th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.844), sixth in isolated power (.212), sixth in speed score (7.4), and 10th in wRC+ (126), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Lugo will be making just his eighth start of the season at second base on Friday. In Greenville, the 6-foot-1, 187-pounder logged 58 innings at second, 216 1/3 innings at third, and 628 2/3 innings at shortstop, where he committed 20 errors.

As noted by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, though, Lugo moved from short to third in early August. There, the Manati native looked “a lot more comfortable defensively” while also being “more consistent” at the plate.

Lugo, who does not turn 22 until next May, should provide the Sea Dogs with a late-season boost after fellow infielder Alex Binelas was placed on the 7-day injured list because of a hamstring issue.

Beyond Lugo, the Red Sox also promoted right-hander Wyatt Olds and left-hander Brendan Cellucci to Portland on Friday.

(Picture of Matthew Lugo: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote relief prospect Jacob Webb to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted relief prospect Jacob Webb from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Webb, 23, was originally selected by Boston in the 14th round of last year’s amateur draft out of Miami University in Ohio. The Fairborn native signed with the club for $122,500 and made his professional debut in the Florida Complex League.

To begin his first full pro season, Webb broke camp with Low-A Salem earlier this spring. The right-hander posted a 2.19 ERA and 3.24 FIP to go along with 39 strikeouts to 19 walks over 18 relief appearances (24 2/3 innings) before earning a promotion to Greenville on June 14.

With the Drive, Webb pitched to a 3.72 ERA and 3.24 FIP while recording 45 strikeouts and nine walks across 24 relief outings spanning 29 innings of work. Between the two Class-A levels, he produced a 3.02 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 53 2/3 innings.

Among South Atlantic League pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings this season, Webb ranks 15th in strikeouts per nine innings (13.97), 15th in strikeout rate (36.9%), 32nd in swinging-strike rate (15.9%), 36th in FIP, and 29th in xFIP (3.28), per FanGraphs.

Listed at a burly 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Webb throws from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 94-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 82-84 mph slider, and an 88-90 mph changeup, according to his SoxProspects.com scout report.

Webb, who does not turn 24 until next March, will wear the No. 46 with the Sea Dogs. He becomes the second member of Boston’s 2021 draft class to make the jump to Portland this season, joining first baseman Niko Kavadas.

(Picture of Jacob Webb: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Wikelman Gonzalez recognized by MLB Pipeline as ‘hottest’ pitching prospect in Red Sox farm system

Wikelman Gonzalez was recently recognized by MLB Pipeline as the hottest pitching prospect in the Red Sox farm system.

Since being promoted from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville last month, Gonzalez has posted a 2.65 ERA and 2.54 FIP to go along with 23 strikeouts to six walks over four starts (17 innings pitched) for the Drive. The right-hander struck out four across five one-run frames in his last time out against the Asheville Tourists at Fluor Field on Wednesday.

Prior to earning that promotion, Gonzalez began the 2022 season in Salem and produced a 4.54 ERA (3.86 FIP) with 98 punchouts to 48 walks over 21 starts (81 1/3 innings). Since making the jump from Low-A to High-A, the 20-year-old hurler has been getting strikeouts more frequently (27.4% to 32.9% strikeout rate) while giving up fewer walks (13.4% to 8.6% walk rate).

Gonzalez is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fifth among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally signed the native Venezuelan for $250,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Maracay in July 2018.

Listed at 6-feet and 167 pounds, Gonzalez “operates at 92-95 mph and tops out at 97 with quality life on his heater. He gets good depth on his upper-70s curveball when he stays on top of it, though it devolves into a slurve at times. He has advanced feel for a mid-80s changeup with fade and isn’t afraid to use it,” per his MLB Pipeline scouting report.

Gonzalez, who does not turn 21 until next March, can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time in his career this winter. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline in order to prevent that from happening.

Given that he is still young and has yet to pitch above High-A, it is no sure thing that Boston will protect — and therefore commit a 40-man roster spot to — Gonzalez this fall.

With that being said, Gonzalez possesses exciting potential and still has room to grow. As MLB Pipeline put it, “consistent control will be the deciding factor in Gonzalez’s pursuit of a Major League rotation spot.”

(Picture of Wikelman Gonzalez: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Red Sox’ Matthew Lugo named South Atlantic League Player of the Month for August

Red Sox infield prospect Matthew Lugo has been named the South Atlantic League Player of the Month for August, Minor League Baseball announced on Wednesday.

Lugo batted .353/.405/.608 with five doubles, seven home runs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored, nine stolen bases, eight walks, and 21 strikeouts over 25 games (111 plate appearances) for High-A Greenville in the month of August. Since the calendar flipped to September, the right-handed hitter has gone 4-for-11 (.364) in his last three games to extend his hitting streak to eight games.

On the 2022 season as a whole, Lugo has slashed a respectable .289/.344/.504 (126 wRC+) to go along with 24 doubles, nine triples, 18 homers, 76 runs driven in, 74 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 33 walks, and 90 strikeouts across 109 games (489 plate appearances) with the Drive.

Among qualified South Atlantic League hitters, Lugo ranks eighth in batting average, 29th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.849), sixth in isolated power (.215), sixth in speed score (7.3), and 10th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Compared to last year with Low-A Salem, Lugo has been able to cut down on his strikeout rate (20 percent to 18.4 percent), but he is also drawing fewer walks (8.1 percent walk rate to 6.7 percent) and making solid contact less frequently (27.3 percent line-drive rate to 18.4 percent) in Greenville.

On the other side of the ball, Lugo has seen playing time at three different positions this season. The 6-foot-1, 187-pounder has logged 628 2/3 innings at shortstop, 180 1/3 innings at third base, and 58 innings at second base. While the versatility is nice, he has committed a total of 26 errors.

Lugo, 21, was originally selected by the Red Sox with the 69th overall pick in the 2019 amateur draft out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. The nephew of the former All-Star outfielder, Lugo signed for $1.1 million and is now regarded by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Given that the minor-league season is almost over, it seems unlikely at this point that Lugo will receive a late promotion to Double-A Portland, though the Sea Dogs are scheduled to play six more regular season games after the Drive wrap things up on Sunday.

Regardless of that happens there, Lugo seems like a sure bet to break camp next spring with Portland. He may also be considered a candidate to play in the Arizona Fall League beginning next month even though he is not Rule 5-eligible until 2023.

(Picture of Matthew Lugo: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote pitching prospect Juan Daniel Encarnacion to High-A Greenville

The Red Sox have promoted pitching prospect Juan Daniel Encarnacion from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Encarnacion, 21, has posted a 4.09 ERA and 3.33 FIP with 119 strikeouts to 39 walks over 24 appearances (23 starts) spanning 103 1/3 innings of work for Salem this season. That includes a 2.92 ERA across his last eight starts dating back July 15.

Among qualified Carolina League pitchers, Encarnacion ranks third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.36), fourth in strikeout rate (26.7%), sixth in groundball rate (43.9%), fifth in WHIP (1.30), second in FIP, and fourth in xFIP (4.12), per FanGraphs. The right-hander was named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week during the first week of June.

This is Encarnacion’s fourth full season in pro ball. The Red Sox originally signed the native Dominican for $40,000 as an international free-agent coming out of San Pedro de Macoris in September 2018. He made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following June and pitched to a 3.86 ERA over 14 starts.

After the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the 2020 minor-league season getting cancelled, Encarnacion returned to affiliated ball last year and produced a 2.96 ERA over 12 outings (10 starts) and 45 2/3 innings in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

Despite the relatively strong numbers he has put up at three different levels now, Encarnacion is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. Perhaps that has to do with his stuff.

According to SoxProspects.com, the lanky 6-foot-2, 173-pound righty operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a sinking 90-93 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 76-81 mph slider, and an 84-85 mph changeup. He “could develop into a very intriguing prospect” if his arsenal continues to improve.

Encarnacion, who does not turn 22 until next March, was not the only Red Sox pitching prospect to make the jump to Greenville on Tuesday. Fellow righties Graham Hoffman and Nate Tellier have also joined the Drive’s pitching staff, while Joey Stock was placed on the 7-day injured list due to a hand abrasion.

(Picture of Juan Daniel Encarnacion: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox infield prospect Matthew Lugo named South Atlantic League Player of the Week

Red Sox infield prospect Matthew Lugo has been named South Atlantic League Player of the Week for the week of August August 15-21, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.

In High-A Greenville’s last series on the road against the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Lugo appeared in five games and went 8-for-21 (.381) with two doubles, four home runs, 10 RBIs, nine runs scored, two stolen bases, one walk, and six strikeouts. All four of those homers came during a two-game stretch on Friday and Saturday.

On the 2022 season as a whole, the right-handed hitter has batted .273/.328/.504 (119 wRC+) to go along with 23 doubles, nine triples, 17 home runs, 70 runs driven in, 66 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 29 walks, and 84 strikeouts across 97 games (437 plate appearances) with the Drive. That includes a .303/.370/.636 slash line in the month of August.

Among qualified South Atlantic League Hitters, Lugo ranks 12th in strikeout rate (19.2%), 16th in batting average, third in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.832), fourth in isolated power (.231), ninth in speed score (7.3), and 15th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Lugo has seen playing time at every infield position besides first base while in Greenville. The 6-foot-1, 187-pounder has logged 626 2/3 innings at shortstop (his primary position), 94 innings at third base, and 58 innings at second base. He has committed a total of 24 errors.

The nephew of former All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, Lugo was originally selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. The Manati native signed with Boston for $1.1 million.

Now 21 years old, Lugo is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system. Before the season started, Baseball America hypothesized that Lugo may spend the majority — if the not the entirety — of 2022 in Greenville.

Given that there are now only a few weeks remaining in the minor-league season, that could very well be the case. With that being said, though, Double-A Portland is scheduled to play six more games in Somerset, N.J. after Greenville’s season ends on September 11.

So, if the Red Sox wanted to, they could promote Lugo from Greenville to Portland in the coming days or weeks so that he could get a taste of the Double-A level since that is likely where he will open the 2023 campaign.

(Picture of Matthew Lugo: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote power-hitting prospect Niko Kavadas to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted power-hitting prospect Niko Kavadas from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Selected by Boston in the 11th round of last year’s draft out of the University of Notre Dame, Kavadas began his first full professional season with Low-A Salem. The left-handed hitting first baseman proceeded to slash .286/.453/.609 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs in 59 games with the Red Sox, prompting a promotion to Greenville in late June.

From there, Kavadas turned things up a notch by batting .308/.472/.592 to go along with four doubles, 10 home runs, 28 RBIs, 27 runs scored, 32 walks, and 42 strikeouts over 37 games (161 plate appearances) with the Drive leading up to Thursday’s promotion.

Among South Atlantic League hitters who have made at least 160 trips to the plate this season, Kavadas ranks second in walk rate (19.9%), 10th in batting average, first in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, second in OPS (1.064), third in isolated power (.283), and first in wRC+ (184), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Kavadas has seen all his playing time this year come at first base. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder has logged 612 total innings at the position between Salem and Greenville and has committed seven errors. It is safe to say he has a bat-first profile.

A native of Indiana, Kavadas is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The 23-year-old was previously unranked but has certainly put himself on the map this season.

Kavadas, who turns 24 in October, becomes the latest notable Red Sox prospect to make the jump from Greenville to Portland this year, joining the likes of Shane Drohan, Brian Van Belle, Alex Binelas, Nick Northcut, and Ceddanne Rafaela.

(Picture of Niko Kavadas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote pitching prospects Wikelman Gonzalez, Luis Guerrero to High-A Greenville

The Red Sox have promoted top pitching prospect Wikelman Gonzalez from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, as was first reported by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

In addition to Gonzalez, fellow right-hander Luis Guerrero has also been promoted to Greenville.

Gonzalez, 20, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks sixth among pitchers in the organization. Fresh off being named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week on Monday, the Venezuelan-born righty has posted a 4.54 ERA and 3.85 FIP with 98 strikeouts to 48 walks over 21 starts (81 1/3 innings) for Salem this season. That includes a 1.69 ERA (2.76 FIP) in the month of August.

Among Carolina League pitchers who have accrued at least 80 innings, Gonzalez ranks third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.84), fourth in strikeout rate (27.4%), second in batting average against (.209), and seventh in FIP, per FanGraphs.

Boston originally signed Gonzalez for $250,000 as an international free-agent coming out Maracay in July 18. The 6-foot, 170-pound hurler now “features an easy, compact delivery” and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-94 mph fastball that tops out at 97 mph, an 87-89 mph changeup, and a 78-80 mph curveball, according to his Baseball America scouting report.

Guerrero, meanwhile, was selected by the Red Sox in the 17th round of last year’s amateur draft out of Chipola College in Marianna, Fla. The native Dominican signed with Boston for $122,500 last August.

Now 22 years old, Guerrero made his pro debut in the Florida Complex League earlier this summer before making the jump to Low-A in June. He has since pitched to a 4.18 ERA (3.54 FIP) to go along with 37 strikeouts to 14 walks across 18 relief outings spanning 23 2/3 innings of work with the Salem Sox.

Unlike Gonzalez, Guerrero is not regarded by any major publications as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. The 6-foot, 215-pounder does, however, work with a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96 mph, an 80-83 mph changeup, an 81-83 mph slider, and a 75-79 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

(Picture of Wikelman Gonzalez: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)