No. 1: Red Sox centerfield prospect Ceddanne Rafaela
Okay, are you really that surprised? Like, really? Have I not been clear about how much I love Ceddanne Chipper Nicasio Marte Rafaela? My guy does everything at an elite level. There’s a reason I call him “your favorite prospect’s favorite prospect”.
Last year, I had him at 10 in the rankings. I felt like I should have had him even higher. But I was a coward and felt like people would already tell me I was stretching it (he wasn’t in the MLB’s top 30 for the Red Sox at this time).
Now, I don’t care. I’m learning from my past mistakes. Rafaela’s taking my top spot.
2022 was a wild one. The right-handed hitter slashed .299/.342/.538 with 32 doubles, 10 triples, and 21 home runs between High-A and Double-A. He drove in 86 runs, scored 82 more, and stole 28 bases.
I want to say that again because I feel like people might not realize how wild of a year that is. Rafaela hit .299 with 32 doubles and 10 triples. He dropped a 20/20 season with 21 home runs and 28 steals. The run production was wild too, with 86 RBI and 82 runs scored in 116 games. That’s insane.
The heavy majority of his season was spent in Double-A too. With just 45 of his 116 games coming in High-A, with the other 71 in Double-A. That sets him up to start next season in Triple-A. Or at the very least, start in Portland with the expectations of a promotion to Worcester within a month.
The only real weakness in his game has been his patience. Rafaela can be a bit of a free-swinger. But he has shown some great patience at times. Enough to make me believe that it is an area he could improve on nicely next season. Legitimate potential to hit around .300.
The power took a major step forward this year, after showing flashes at the end of 2021. A baseline of 20 home runs could be a yearly thing for him.
Meanwhile, Rafaela has great speed. He can fly down the first base line to beat out bunts and grounders in the infield. The steals will be there too, with 20-plus being a common occurrence. His base running is severely underrated. He’s aggressive on the base paths, but that doesn’t mean he’s not smart. Also stole extra-base hits multiple times when he noticed that the defense wasn’t paying attention.
Now let’s talk about that defense. Last season I listed Rafaela as a “utility-man” because he spent time in the outfield, as well as at shortstop, third base, and second base. He impressed me with the fact that he looked not only looked comfortable everywhere but had elite potential as well.
This season, we’re listing him as a centerfielder. He spent plenty of time at shortstop too though. And I can confidently say that Rafaela will win multiple Gold Gloves at either of those positions. If he ends up back at second or third, he’ll probably win one there too.
Rafaela’s instincts are incredible. Off the bat, he always seems to make the right read. His speed gives him excellent range, and he made more highlight plays than you could keep track of. It’s not just the highlight plays though. He makes difficult plays look like legitimate routine ones. I’m talking plays that other people might not make, and he’s gliding under the ball for easy grabs.
His defense might be the first “80” grade I’ve ever given.
A fantastic arm with great accuracy accompanies all of this. Just for fun. No one is going to run on him after they see his arm just a few times. It plays perfectly at both shortstop, and in the outfield.
Rafaela’s an amazing shortstop. But I think centerfield is his best position. It’s mesmerizing to watch him out there. And where he’ll likely end up if we’re being honest with ourselves.
Overall, there’s nothing bad to say about his game. Just sit back and enjoy the show.