Ceddanne Rafaela could make unexpected run at AL Rookie of the Year for Red Sox

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The Boston Red Sox prospects cache is starting to pay some dividends. Ceddanne Rafaela is one of the most notable among them, whom the Red Sox signed to a long-term deal with just a few games under his cleats.

Rafaela will reward them with a Rookie of The Year for 2024, as we go into full hyperbole mode. Some exaggerated positives? Why not?

On offense, Boston has three rookies making noise among their first-year brethren: Rafaela, Wilyer Abreu, and David Hamilton. At the one-third juncture, Rafaela has topped all American League freshmen in runs, home runs, and RBI through May 31.

The interesting statistical note is speed. Smart and speedy base running is key to the modern game of baseball, a generally ignored item in Boston's past. All three Red Sox first-year guys are leading the rookie contingent in steals.

The party line on Rafaela's defense was that he is Gold Glove-caliber at two positions — outfield and shortstop. Sox fans have yet to see that, but there have already been several highlight-reel plays in both positions. Rafaela has collected +3 defensive runs saved in the outfield and -2 at short, which won't secure him any prizes. Fred Lynn (21/103/.331) won a Gold Glove in 1975 as a ROY, and Rafaela will not match that. Can he match Lynn's home runs? An inviting and doable target.

Ceddanne Rafaela is the Red Sox rookie with the best skill set for American League Rookie of the Year

Rafaela's 26.1 K% shows that his approach at the plate needs refining, especially when coupled with a 3.4 BB%. He follows the baseball tradition of being a "free swinger" — comparable to Rafael Devers — but he's shown promise as his batting average and OBP is heading north, not south.

Red Sox rookies' offensive standards are Ted Williams (31/145/.327) and Walt Dropo (34/144/.322). Teddy Ballgame went to the Hall of Fame, and Dropo went back to Mosseup, Connecticut. There was no ROY when Williams played, but the Moose got the 1950 award.

Rafaela will certainly top Dustin Pedroia (8/50/.317) in his ROY-winning year, except for average. Maybe Rafaela can come close to Carlton Fisk (22/61/.293), but Fisk and Nomar Garciaparra (30/98/.306) could be inviting RBI and home run targets.

Lynn and Jim Rice (22/102/.309) were dubbed the "Gold Dust Twins." They led Boston to a pennant in 1975 and went first and second, respectively, in ROY voting. Now, we race similarly with Abreu, who is the ultimate main competition from a position player standpoint (Yankees rookie Luis Gil is making quite the argument as a starting pitcher).

The possible greatest Red Sox rookie season was Babe Ruth's in 1915. Ruth led the team in home runs with four and hit .315. Ruth only had 20 RBI, but those totals were in 92 at-bats. Then came the 18-8 on the mound, which Rafaela cannot replicate.

Rafaela has a tremendous upside and is about as close to another Mookie Betts floating around in the Red Sox system. The product is rough, and undoubtedly, finishing work is needed, but he could surprise everyone when all is said and done.

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