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 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)

Red Sox’ Izzy Wilson earns Eastern League Player of the Week honors for second time this season

For the second time this season, Izzy Wilson has been named Eastern League Player of the Week. He first earned the honors for the week of July 4-10 and did so again for the week of September 5-11, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.

In Double-A Portland’s last series against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at Hadlock Field, Wilson went 9-for-16 (.563) with four doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, six runs scored, two walks, and two strikeouts over five games.

On the 2022 season as a whole, the left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .207/.304/.400 with 14 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 41 runs driven in, 46 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 39 walks, and 91 strikeouts across 91 games (334 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

While those numbers may not seem all that impressive, Wilson has been a much better hitter as of late. In his last 45 games dating back to July 4, for instance, the 24-year-old has slashed a stout .293/.371/.592 (157 wRC+) to go along with 10 homers, 33 RBIs, 29 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 169 trips to the plate.

Defensively, Wilson has seen the majority of his playing time with the Sea Dogs come in right field. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder has logged a team-high 632 1/3 innings in right as well as 78 innings in center while leading the team in outfield assists with six.

Wilson was once regarded by Baseball America as a top-30 prospect in the Braves farm system after signing with Atlanta as an international free-agent in December 2014. The Sint Maarten native also spent time in the Rays and Angels organizations prior to inking a minor-league deal with the Red Sox back in January.

Considering that he does not turn 25 until next March, it should be interesting to see if Boston attempts to bring Wilson back on another minors pact for the 2023 season. He could potentially provide the club with intriguing outfield depth at Triple-A Worcester.

(Picture of Izzy Wilson: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Speedy Red Sox prospect David Hamilton makes history with 65th stolen base of season for Double-A Portland

Red Sox infield prospect David Hamilton made history at Hadlock Field on Sunday afternoon.

In Double-A Portland’s 4-3 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Hamilton went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, two runs scored, and one stolen base out of the leadoff spot.

After doubling in the first inning and belting a three-run home run in the fourth, Hamilton etched his name into the Sea Dogs’ record books in the bottom of the eighth. The speedy 24-year-old fittingly recorded his third hit of the contest by beating out a bunt single. He then took off for second and successfully stole his 65th base of the season without a throw.

By swiping 65 bags, Hamilton surpassed Julio Ramirez — who stole 64 in 1999 — for the most single-season stolen bases in Sea Dogs franchise history. His 65 stolen bases are also the most by a Red Sox minor-leaguer in a single season since Jeremy Hazelbaker stole 63 with the Greenville Drive in 2010.

To go along with all those stolen bases, the left-handed hitter is now batting .236/.327/.387 with 14 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs, 40 RBIs, 74 runs scored, 54 walks, and 113 strikeouts over 113 games (501 plate appearances) for Portland this season.

Defensively, Hamilton made his 60th start of the year on Sunday. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has logged 523 2/3 innings at second, 426 1/3 innings at shortstop, and 18 innings in center field for the first time in his professional career.

Hamilton, who turns 25 later this month, is not currently regarded by Baseball America as one of the top 30 prospects in Boston’s farm system. He was, however, recently identified by the publication as the fastest base stealer in the Eastern League.

SoxProspects.com, which lists Hamilton as its 49th-ranked Red Sox prospect, notes that he possesses “plus-to-better speed” and “solid baserunning instincts. FanGraphs grades Hamilton’s speed tool as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

The Red Sox acquired Hamilton (as well as fellow prospect Alex Binelas and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.) from the Brewers in exchange for Hunter Renfroe last December. Milwaukee originally selected the former Longhorn in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin.

Even after missing the entirety of his junior season and first professional season while recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, it appears as though Hamilton has regained the elite speed that makes him stand out on the field.

As the minor-league season winds down and Hamilton looks to add to his record, it is worth mentioning that the San Marcos native 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.

If he sticks with the organization through the off-season, one would have to think Hamilton will open the 2023 campaign with Triple-A Worcester. A lot can happen between now and then, though.

(Picture of David Hamilton courtesy of the Portland Sea Dogs)

Red Sox prospect David Hamilton identified by Baseball America as fastest baserunner in Eastern League

In a recent poll conducted by Baseball America, Red Sox infield prospect David Hamilton was identified by his peers as the fastest baserunner in the Eastern League.

Coming into play on Wednesday, Hamilton has stolen 58 bases in 104 games with Double-A Portland this season. The left-handed-hitting speedster is also batting .225/.311/.369 with 12 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 46 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 459 trips to the plate.

Among qualified Eastern League hitters, Hamilton ranks first in triples, sixth in runs scored, first in stolen bases, first in speed score (8.5), and first in weighted stolen base runs (8.7), per FanGraphs. Not only are his 58 stolen bases the most in the Eastern League, they are also the most at the Double-A level and the eighth-most in all of Minor League Baseball.

With 58 swiped bags under his belt, Hamilton is now just six shy of passing Jeremy Hazelbaker — who stole 63 for Class-A Greenville in 2010 — for the most by a Red Sox minor-leaguer in a single season dating back to 2006.

On the other side of the ball, Hamilton utilizes his speed while playing both middle infield positions and a little bit of outfield for the first time in his professional career. As a member of the Sea Dogs, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has logged 477 2/3 innings at second base, 390 1/3 innings at shortstop, and 18 innings in center.

Hamilton, who turns 25 in less than a month, was originally selected by the Brewers in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin. The former Longhorn missed the entirety of his junior season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a scooter accident. With the COVID-19 pandemic being cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not make his pro debut until last May.

In spite of the fact that he was coming off an Achilles injury that required surgery, Hamilton still managed to steal 52 bases in 101 games between High-A Wisconsin and Double-A Biloxi. He stole four more in the Arizona Fall League before being traded (alongside Jackie Bradley Jr. and fellow prospect Alex Binelas) to the Red Sox for outfielder Hunter Renfroe in early December.

The 24-year-old began the 2022 season as Baseball America’s 25th-ranked Red Sox prospect, but he has since been dropped from the publication’s top-30 list. SoxProspects.com lists Hamilton as its No. 49 prospect, noting that the native Texan possesses “plus-to-better speed” and “solid baserunning instincts.”

While those two traits stick out as his carrying tools, it remains to be seen how the rest of Hamilton’s skillset will develop as he continues to progress through the upper-minors. The Red Sox will have an important decision to make with Hamilton this fall, as he can become Rule 5 eligible for the first time if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by the November deadline.

If protected, Hamilton will occupy a spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster while presumably spending the majority of the his age-25 season at Triple-A Worcester. If left unprotected, an opposing club could select Hamilton in this December’s Rule 5 Draft, though they would then need to carry him on their major-league roster for the entirety of the 2023 campaign. If those conditions could not be met, Hamilton would have to be offered back to the Red Sox.

(Picture of David Hamilton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Wilyer Abreu homers for first time since being acquired from Astros

Wilyer Abreu hit his first home run as a member of the Red Sox organization on Sunday afternoon. It came in the third inning of Double-A Portland’s 4-1 win over the Hartford Yard Goats at Hadlock Field.

Following Sunday’s 1-for-3 performance in which he also drew a walk, Abreu is now batting .205/.341/.288 with three doubles, the one homer, seven RBIs, 11 runs scored, two stolen bases, 16 walks, and 29 strikeouts in 23 games (91 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

While those numbers do not stand out by any means, Abreu appears to be showing some signs of life at the plate lately. In his last five games, for the instance, the left-handed hitting outfielder has gone 4-for-15 (.267) with an on-base percentage of .400 and wRC+ of 136.

On the other side of the ball, Abreu made his fifth start in center field for Portland on Sunday. All together, the 6-foot, 217-pounder has logged 61 innings in center, 71 innings in left, and 56 innings in right since joining the Sea Dogs earlier this month.

The Red Sox acquired Abreu and fellow prospect Enmanuel Valdez from the Astros in exchange for catcher and free-agent-to-be Christian Vazquez on August 1. While Valdez was assigned to Triple-A Worcester out of the gate, Abreu has spent the entirety of his organizational tenure to this point in Portland.

Abreu, 23, originally signed with the Astros for $300,000 as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela in July 27. At the time of the trade, the Maracaibo native was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 21 prospect in Houston’s farm system. He is now ranked by the publication as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Interestingly enough, Abreu was supposed to sign with the Red Sox as a 17-year-old in 2016. He had already established a relationship with assistant general manager Eddie Romero, but Boston was banned from signing international prospects during the 2016-17 period after breaking signing bonus rules the year before.

“I was supposed to sign here with the Red Sox in 2016,” said Abreu, who added that Romero was one of the first people to call him after the trade was made in a recent conversation with MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

“I love it,” Abreu said of joining the Red Sox organization. “It’s a new team. A lot of guys who have a good makeup. And I like this city (Portland) because of the weather. I love the weather.”

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Abreu is “an extremely patient hitter with a discerning eye at the plate, leading to high walk totals and some strikeouts due to passivity. Overall it’s high level swing decisions with above-average game power. He has enough bat-to-ball skills to avoid the three-true-outcome label, but his average will fluctuate due to his flyball heavy approach.

“Defensively he can handle centerfield and tests highly on the Astros internal athleticism measurements. He has an unusual build as he’s a bigger bodied player for centerfield, but he has the ability to hit and provide versatility in the outfield.”

Abreu, who does not turn 24 until next June, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline. It remains to be seen if that will happen. In the meantime, a late-season promotion so that Abreu can join Valdez in Worcester certainly cannot be ruled out.

(Picture of Wilyer Abreu: Christopher Smith/MassLive)

Red Sox to promote top pitching prospect Bryan Mata to Triple-A Worcester, per report

The Red Sox have promoted top pitching prospect Bryan Mata to Triple-A Worcester, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith. The right-hander is expected to make his first start for the WooSox in Tuesday’s series opener against the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park.

Mata, 23, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks second among pitchers in the organization behind only fellow righty Brayan Bello.

Originally signed out of Venezuela for just $25,000 as an international free-agent in January 2016, Mata was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2020. The Maracay native seemed destined to make his major-league debut at some point during the 2021 campaign, but he wound up undergoing Tommy John surgery last April after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Thirteen months after going under the knife, Mata returned to the mound with a bang. The hard-throwing righty topped out at 100 mph with his four-seam fastball during an extended spring training start in May and was sent out on a rehab assignment shortly thereafter.

By early summer, Mata had gotten his feet between Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville, prompting a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 28. In 10 appearances (nine starts) for the Sea Dogs since then, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound hurler has posted a 1.85 ERA and 3.57 FIP with 58 strikeouts to 23 walks over 48 2/3 innings of work. That includes an ongoing stretch of 18 consecutive scoreless frames dating back to August 12.

Among Eastern League pitchers who — as of Sunday morning — have thrown at least 40 innings to this point in the year, Mata ranks 22nd in strikeout rate (29.4%), ninth in groundball rate (52.2%), 27th in batting average against (.202), second in ERA, 20th in FIP, and 13th in xFIP (3.57), per FanGraphs.

In addition to his high-octane four-seamer, Mata operates with a two-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. The curveball and slider are considered to be his two best secondary pitches.

Mata, who does not turn 24 until next May, could soon join Bello in making his major-league debut for the Red Sox. In the meantime, he becomes just the latest Boston pitching prospect to make the jump from Portland to Worcester this season joining the likes of Bello, Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter, and Victor Santos, among others.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata extends scoreless innings streak to 18 in latest strong start for Double-A Portland

It appears as though Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata may be ready for a promotion to Triple-A Worcester.

In his latest start for Double-A Portland on Wednesday night, Mata scattered five hits and two walks to go along with a season-high nine strikeouts over six scoreless innings of work in an 8-0 win over the Hartford Yard Goats. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 94 pitches (61 strikes) and induced 11 swings-and-misses.

Since making the jump from High-A Greenville in late June, Mata has posted a 1.85 ERA and 3.58 FIP with 58 strikeouts to 23 walks over 10 appearances (9 starts) spanning 48 2/3 innings with the Sea Dogs this season. He has not allowed a run in his last 18 innings pitched.

Among Eastern League pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings to this point in the year, Mata ranks 23rd in strikeout rate (29.4%), ninth in groundball rate (52.2%), 26th in batting average against (.202), second in ERA, 21st in FIP, and 14th in xFIP (3.57), per FanGraphs.

Mata, who missed the entirety of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks second among pitchers in the organization behind only fellow righty Brayan Bello.

The Red Sox originally signed Mata for just $25,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Venezuela in January 2016. The Maracay native was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November 2020 and seemed destined to make his big-league debut in 2021. But he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that spring, which ultimately required him to go under the knife.

Sixteen months later and Mata is once again putting himself on the map. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound was clocked at 100 mph with his four-seam fastball during an extended spring training start in May. His other offerings include a two-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.

Mata, who does not turn 24 until next May, would become the latest in a long line of Red Sox pitching prospects to make the transition from Double-A to Triple-A this season. Bello, who has since made his major-league debut, and Brandon Walter were both promoted in May. Chris Murphy was promoted the following month while fellow southpaw Jay Groome — who has since been traded to the Padres– was promoted in July. Victor Santos was also promoted earlier this month.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Trevor Story to begin rehab assignment with Double-A Portland on Wednesday

Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Portland on Wednesday, manager Alex Cora said before Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Story has been sidelined since July 12, when he was hit in the right hand by an 89 mph sinker from Rays starter Corey Kluber. After X-rays came back negative, Story was diagnosed with a right hand contusion. The Red Sox were hopeful that he would avoid the injured list but placed him on the 10-day IL four days later.

Nearly two weeks after being placed on the injured list, Story began to swing a bat again. But the right-handed hitter still complained of discomfort and was unable to grip a bat properly. That prompted the Red Sox to send Story to get a second opinion from a hand specialist, who diagnosed the 29-year-old with a small hairline fracture near his right wrist.

Following that diagnosis, Story was shut down from swinging for 10-14 days. He resumed swinging earlier this month and progressed to the point where he was hitting off a tee before joining the Red Sox on their most-recent road trip last week.

While with the club in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Story hit indoors off a high-velocity pitching machine. On Tuesday afternoon, he told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that he took batting practice on the field for the first time breaking his wrist.

With the WooSox on the road this week, Story will join the Sea Dogs in Portland for their series against the Hartford Yard Goats. Cora was not sure how many games or at-bats Story would need before being cleared to return to the Red Sox.

Story, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal with Boston in March, was batting .221/.289/.423 with 17 doubles, 15 home runs, 58 RBIs, 49 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 81 games (342 plate appearances) at the time of his injury.

Coming into this season, Story had never played second base in his six seasons with the Rockies. Despite that lack of experience, the two-time All-Star currently ranks first among all American League second baseman in Defensive Runs Saved (8) and third in Outs Above Average (9), per FanGraphs.

Taking that into consideration, Cora indicated on Tuesday that once Story is back, “there’s a good chance” Christian Arroyo will slide over to first base after holding down the fort at second during Story’s absence.

(Picture of Trevor Story: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)