Ceddanne Rafaela, OF/2B/SS/3B, BOS

Saw a bit of a flurry on Twitter about Ceddanne Rafaela yesterday, so let’s see if his hot start to 2022 is anything to draw our attention.

Video courtesy of Baseball Caliente RD
  • Born: September 18, 2000
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 5’8″, 152-lbs
  • Signed by the Boston Red Sox in 2017 out of Curacao.

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of milb.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

Yes, his 2022 is off to as good a start as one could hope, but let’s note the 40 PA and that it’s only 8 games so far. He won’t finish the year hitting .421, for example.

In his rookie season stateside, he got on base at a decent amount, he showed some good power, solid speed, very good strikeout numbers, and predictably poor walk numbers. Why predictably poor? Young batters who can control the strike zone and play at very low levels often have poor walk rates. Why? They don’t need to draw walks; they just hit the ball and get on base.

In 2021 at Low-A his OBP dipped, his power stayed the same as did his speed, his strikeouts remained excellent, and his walks dipped. Good bat control, still too anxious to hit, moderate power.

In a short sample at High-A in 2022, he’s hitting the snot out of the ball with five home runs in his first eight games (he only had 10 HRs in all of 2021, for instance), making people wonder if this is a new power surge in his 5’8″, 152-pound frame. Well, his Hard Hit% is only 18.2%, which is poor. He’s not hitting the ball consistently hard even though some of them are going out. That’s usually a bad sign for you want your power hitters to hit the ball hard consistently. In 2021, by the way, his Hard Hit% was just 19.9%, so his Hard Hit% actually has gone down this year.

So he’s getting home runs without hitting the ball hard very often. He still doesn’t strike out much, he’s drawing fewer walks than ever, but he’s being productive for his team with both his occasional power and his speed. He gets on base, he steals bases, he scores runs. Coaches love batters like this.

His OBP last year against lefties and righties was virtually identical, though he had a higher average — and a MUCH higher slugging percentage against lefties. Against righties his OBP is nothing to write home about; against lefties you want to write home every hour!

Savant only has 2018 and 2019 data in their spray chart for Rafeala. We definitely see pull power only in this chart. It would be interesting to see 2022.

The Scouts

Warnings

Scouts ignore him. He’s ranked like 28th out of Boston’s Top 30 prospects. So he’s known, but not raved about.

He hasn’t faced Double-A yet.

His strikeout rate goes up two notches per level. So that would mean 22% at Double-A, 24% at Triple-A, 26% at MLB — oh, never mind, it’s never that linear, and frankly 26% ain’t that bad.

He needs to take a walk. Lots of walks. Stop swinging at everything, even if it works now, because by the time you get to the higher levels, you won’t be able to swing at everything. Make good habits now while you still can.

Conclusion

The home run burst is exciting, no doubt. But with a consistently poor Hard Hit%, I don’t see how this can continue. Either his Hard Hit% has to increase, or the HRs will decrease.

Now if this is the start of a new power surge, even on his frame that seems to have no room to grow, maybe we are seeing something new in his toolbox. I hope that’s the case, but I need to see more.

Now his defense, that’s the ticket! Everyone raves about his defense, and they can play him everywhere. Infield, outfield, corners, middle, whatever they need, he can do it. You know what guys like this become in the majors? You know, defensive specialists with good bat control, good speed, at least a little power? Right, utility bats. I think we are looking at a future utility player here, and that’s valuable in real life.

Just be a bit cautious before you think of him as a fantasy asset until you see him a) draw more walks; and b) start hitting the ball harder on a consistent basis.

UPDATE (April 24, 2022): Chris Clegg had a nice Twitter thread about Rafaela:

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