Is a callup in the cards for red-hot Rafaela?

August 7th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

For the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox, this has been the week of Ceddanne Rafaela.

Boston’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline started August with a blaze of power, homering in his first five games of the month. When Rafaela finally went without a long ball on Sunday, he still posted a 3-for-5 game, including a double.

While it’s uncertain when the 22-year-old will make his arrival to Fenway Park, 2024 seems like a safe bet. For Rafaela to make his debut this season, the Red Sox would probably have to either fall well out of contention or suffer an injury in the outfield.

The tools are all there for one of the most electrifying prospects the Red Sox have had in recent years. The final step to Rafaela’s development, as has been well-chronicled, is the need to improve on his plate discipline. That’s why his four-walk performance on Aug. 2 was noteworthy.

The more Rafaela can build off outings like that, the faster he will emerge at the highest level.

“The one thing that we want from him, regardless of the numbers, is controlling the strike zone,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He’s very unique in what he does, because he chases pitches, but he is hitting. The other day, he hit a homer and walked four times. That's a great game for me. The more he walks, the more he controls the strike zone, the better he's going to be.”

Rafaela could go to the Major Leagues right now and be a high-impact defender -- not just in center field, where he makes jaw-dropping catches, but also at shortstop.

“I wouldn’t want to compare him to others, but his ability to play a plus center field and a plus shortstop is pretty special and valuable,” said Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham. “His glove provides a lot of value and is a game changer on the dirt and in the grass. He takes pride in what he does on the field and I only see him continuing to improve with the work he puts in and more thorough understanding of positioning and opponents at the upper levels.”

How much more development does Rafaela need and what are the Red Sox looking for from him for the rest of the season?

“It’s hard to put limits on what he can or should do,” said Abraham. “Continue to refine his approach and do damage on balls he makes contact with within the K-zone. [Laying off] pitches off the plate, handling pitches on the plate, and adjusting to pitches on the edges/shadow of the zone depending on the situation/count. Being himself, being the athlete he is, and being the aggressive, dynamic player he is.”

One thing the Red Sox definitely see in Rafaela is a self-motivated prospect.

“You’ve really hit the nail on the head -- he understands he’s not a finished product and wants to work in all areas, including defense, on the basepaths, and at the plate,” said Abraham. “He wants to be the best Ceddanne Rafaela he can be vs. trying to be someone he’s not or wanting to be compared to others. That’s putting himself within challenging environments in his pre-game work and practice, pushing himself in the weight room, eating well, sleeping, preparing, and winning each day.”

Here are some other developments in the farm system.

Double-A Portland: Slumping Mayer down for a bit
Even the most gifted prospects go through slumps. Take Marcelo Mayer, MLB’s No. 3 prospect, for example.

The shortstop has struggled to find consistency since his promotion to Double-A at the end of May. In 43 games and 190 plate appearances, Mayer has a line of .189/.254/.355 with eight doubles, a triple and six homers.

The 20-year-old was placed on the seven-day injured list over the weekend with left shoulder inflammation. In the five games before he was shut down, Mayer had one hit in his previous 20 at-bats with 12 strikeouts. Perhaps the ailing shoulder has played a role in that. Given that Mayer was drafted straight out of high school two years ago, his bumpy adjustment to Double-A isn’t all that concerning.

High-A Greenville: Anthony crushing it
Roman Anthony, whom the Red Sox selected at No. 79 overall in the 2022 Draft as compensation for losing Eduardo Rodriguez to free agency, continues to impress since his promotion to High-A. The left-handed-hitting outfielder from West Palm Beach, Fla., has a line of .298/.428/.645 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs since moving up a level. Boston’s No. 5 prospect is 19 years old and figures to move up in Pipeline’s midseason rankings, which are due out in a few days.