Rafaela will get a chance to win Red Sox's CF job in camp

February 13th, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. – , who claimed the 76th spot in MLB Pipeline’s preseason rankings, will have a chance to make the jump from prospect to everyday player as soon as Opening Day.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora and chief baseball officer Craig Breslow both said Tuesday it’s possible the highly gifted defender could break camp as the team’s starting center fielder.

The Red Sox will use a large portion of Spring Training to determine if Rafaela is ready to make the leap.

Specifically, the club will monitor his at-bats. Plate discipline/pitch recognition is the final piece of Rafaela’s developmental puzzle.

“I think it is pretty clear that Rafaela possesses the skills to be a game-changer on defense,” said Breslow. “I think we'll see over the course of the next five or six weeks if the Major Leagues is the best environment for him or if additional time in Triple-A is.”

If the Red Sox decide to start Rafaela at Triple-A Worcester, speedster could be the best option in center. and also have experience there.

“We’ll see what happens in Spring Training,” said Cora. “So, we're going to be dynamic. We're going to be more athletic in the outfield, and hopefully that translates into wins. I do believe if Rafaela makes the team, he's going to play center field.”

In Rafaela’s first taste of life in the Majors last season, he played in 28 games and got 83 plate appearances, carrying a batting line of .241/.281/.386 with two homers and five RBIs.

The 23-year-old from Curacao is known for having a strong work ethic, so it will be interesting to see what kind of improvements he’s made at the plate.

“Honestly, he had a good offseason,” said Cora. “He was in Tampa the last month, working, and working on his body, with his swing, all that stuff. It's just a matter how we feel about it. We know the defensive game is elite. It’s a game-changer.

“So we'll sit down as a group towards the end and decide what we want. If we're comfortable with a kid playing centerfield, understanding that there's going to be struggles at the big-league level in the offensive part of it, then we'll go that way. If we feel that he needs to go to the Minor Leagues and keep getting better and keep improving, we’ll do that, too.”

Given that the Red Sox have been transparent about focusing on their young core this season, taking a leap of faith in Rafaela to start the season could make some sense. The drawback would be a talented player losing some confidence if he gets off to a slow start.

“I think this becomes a question about balancing the short- and long-term development of Rafaela,” said Breslow. “What we want to do is balance those two things. I don't think we should put him in center field at the expense of his development, but certainly there may be an argument that says a Major League environment is the best for him. So the short answer is maybe, depending on what collectively we determine is the best situation for him.”

Yoshida to be primary DH
Following the loss of to free agency, Cora confirmed Tuesday that he views as the player who will get the most at-bats at designated hitter this season. Just how much of Yoshida’s time will be spent as the DH remains to be seen.

“I'm not saying he's the DH, but out of the group, he’ll get the most at-bats in that position,” said Cora.

Breslow thrilled to have Theo as resource
With Theo Epstein back in the fold as a part owner and consultant of the Fenway Sports Group, Breslow has an ideal mentor at his disposal. Epstein was the one who added Breslow to the Cubs front office in 2019.

“To date, he has not rebuffed any of my requests for counsel or advice. Hopefully, that won't change,” quipped Breslow. “But, you know, the chance to call Theo a mentor and an advisor and to be able to call on him in real time is incredibly valuable and meaningful to me. I think we both acknowledge that he doesn't have an interest in some of the more day-to-day minutia transactions and decision making, but I also would say it'd be foolish for me not to bounce ideas off of him and get his perspective on things.”