Red Sox rookie Ceddanne Rafaela excelling in 2024 thanks to one clear change

2024 Dominican Republic Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays
2024 Dominican Republic Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays / Bryan Bennett/GettyImages

Before spring training started, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora expressed his confidence in outfield prospect Ceddanne Rafaela.

Cora told reporters that Rafaela was in the running for a job as the Sox's everyday center fielder — all he would have to do is make the team. His speed and defensive skills would greatly benefit the Red Sox, whose defense is consistently underwhelming, to say the least. However, many doubted Rafaela's ability to break the roster due to his lack of command at the plate.

This spring, Rafaela proved his doubters wrong, and it's all thanks to an adjustment in the batter's box. He's been billed as a free-swinger and he's working to change the narrative.

“He’s playing well, man,” Cora said to Sean McAdam of MassLive. “And controlling the strike zone, too. He knows when he’s swinging. Defensively, we know that (he’s capable). But for me, it’s more about controlling the strike zone and he’s been doing a good job of it.”

Rafaela's getting on base at a higher clip through better swing choices, more walks and increased quality contact. Rafaela wasn't originally billed as someone who could hit for power consistently, but the 23-year-old hit three homers in spring training thanks to his adjustments.

Ceddanne Rafaela's improved consistency at the plate may secure his bid for the Red Sox Opening Day roster

But Red Sox hitting coach Pete Fatse said he doesn't want to completely hamper Rafaela's aggression at the plate. Unpredictability can work to a batter's benefit, and Rafaela can still get the bat on some tough pitches.

Cora shared with reporters that he plans to give Rafaela some playing time in the middle infield, possibly to replace Vaughn Grissom at second base while he rehabs from a groin injury. Rafaela's all-around improvements bought him a ticket straight to the Opening Day roster and he's already hitting .333 with a .917 OPS through three games.

Rafaela told reporters he's “just doing what [he] can do and trying to show them that [he's] ready (to handle the big leagues).” Fans are loving the early returns.

More Red Sox reads: