Among the most eye-opening single performances on the back fields of Red Sox minor league spring training, one game stood out.
Ceddanne Rafaela drilled three homers in a minor league spring training game, adding to the intrigue surrounding a player with tools that exceed his 5-foot-8, 158-pound stature.
From the time that he signed with the Red Sox out of Curacao in 2017, Rafaela’s energy and athleticism were obvious, as was his defensive skill while bouncing around the infield.
The Red Sox wanted to explore an expanded profile for Rafaela and started giving him outfield time in 2021. The result was dazzling, with Rafaela taking to the grass immediately with a combination of an excellent first step, range, instincts and a strong arm.
He emerged as the best Red Sox defensive outfielder in years.
“He has uncanny natural anticipation,” noted one evaluator who suggested Rafaela showed double-plus defensive potential.
Rafaela’s excellent defense in both the outfield and shortstop, second base and third base suggests a clear path to MLB if he can provide some offensive impact. That possibility seemed to grow in the second half of 2021 and through spring training.
With Low-A Salem in 2021, Rafaela hit .251/.305/.424 with 10 home runs and 23 stolen bases in 102 games. Despite an aggressive approach that yielded just a 5.8% walk rate, his bat-to-ball ability permitted him to maintain a reasonable 18.3% strikeout rate.
He showed surprising thump when barreling the ball, particularly down the stretch.
After Rafaela hit .219 in his first 55 games, a mechanical adjustment with his hands appeared to contribute to less swing-and-miss and more hard contact. He hit .285/.325/.523 over his final 47 games.
The 21-year-old Rafaela opened the 2022 season with High-A Greenville by slugging a pair of homers in the first three games, adding to the impression in spring training that he has a chance to take a step forward offensively.
— Second baseman David Hamilton, in his first game in the Red Sox system after being acquired from the Brewers in December, matched a Double-A Portland Sea Dogs record by driving in seven runs in the season opener while going 4-for-5 with two homers, and a triple and a steal.
— Righthander Bradley Blalock, a 21-year-old starter who had a solid first full pro season in Low-A Salem in 2021, had Tommy John surgery in mid March and will miss the 2022 season.