Kiké Hernández’s Red Sox extension bridges the gap to Ceddanne Rafaela’s debut
The 21-year-old Rafaela put himself on the map in a big way this season. Over 111 games between High-A and Double-A, he hit .300/.345/.545 with 77 runs scored, 79 RBI, and 27 stolen bases. His 137 hits include 32 doubles, 10 triples, and 20 home runs. No other player in the organization has more extra-base hits.
Hernández’s additional year with the team figures to be a way to bridge the gap to Rafaela’s debut, which could come in late 2023 or early 2024. That theory should not take away from the veteran super-utility player’s talent, though. Hernández spent most of the season on the Injured List but played a key part in the 2021 squad’s unexpectedly brilliant season, which culminated in a thrilling postseason run. He’s proven to be a stellar defender who can handle the tricky confines of Fenway Park at almost every infield and outfield position. If he can stay healthy next year, his $10M salary will be a steal.
What does Kiké Hernández’s Red Sox extension mean for Jarren Duran?
Unfortunately, the extension also speaks volumes about the front office’s confidence (or lack thereof) in Jarren Duran, himself a former top prospect. Since his 2021 debut, Duran has struggled in his various stints at the big-league level, both offensively and defensively. When the Sox released Gold Glove outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in early August, they attempted to convince the public that the move was a vote of confidence in Duran, a chance for him to prove himself. The test did not last long; he was back in Triple-A by the end of the month.
Unfortunately for Duran, the timing of his stock plummeting coincides with Rafaela’s meteoric rise, which only makes his struggles appear worse. Dating back to the August 2 trade deadline, Rafaela has 25 hits in 28 games, including 12 extra-base knocks, 12 runs scored, 20 RBI, and five stolen bases. And in contrast to Duran’s struggles in the outfield, Rafaela has been praised repeatedly for stellar defense. The Seadogs just named him Defensive Player of the Year, with manager Chad Epperson saying his player is unlike anyone he’s ever seen. Red Sox big-leaguers who rehabbed in Portland this summer came away awed by his talent. Trevor Story said he’s “as good as I’ve seen… seems like the whole package.” Matt Barnes needed only one word:
Rafaela’s next-level defense is even more remarkable than the eye test or numbers indicate, given that he only started playing the outfield this season. And the young star is only getting started; he made it clear that defense is a priority for him, telling Alex Speier that he wants to “keep improving” and “win a lot of Gold Gloves.” Duran is still young, but it’s hard to see him ever being a Gold Glove outfielder. And with the complexities of Fenway’s centerfield dimensions, the Sox need an above-average defender on patrol.
So far behind in the standings, the Sox have effectively stopped pretending that this year is the year, and are now looking forward. It’s evident in their calling up Triston Casas, to get a first look before games count again next spring, in their demotions of Duran and Bobby Dalbec, and in setting up Hernández’s and Rafaela’s timelines like a thrilling game of Tetris.
If they planned on making Duran a key part of their future, he’d still be with the big-league club now, working out the kinks in games that no longer count. Instead, he appears to be an unsolvable game of Solitaire that the Sox are leaving hanging in the balance.