Ceddanne Rafaela excelled defensively in center field for the Portland Sea Dogs after a midseason promotion, drawing comparisons to a young Mookie Betts. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Ceddanne Rafaela will begin the 2023 season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

It’s a decision that may come as a surprise, as the 22-year-old prospect emerged as a formidable defender when he moved from shortstop to the outfield in 2021, and then had a breakout season as a hitter last year, drawing comparisons to a young Mookie Betts.

Rafaela skyrocketed to No. 3 in the Red Sox farm system, and finished the year as the organization’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year. He hit .299/.342/.539 with 32 doubles, 10 triples and 21 home runs, 82 runs scored, 86 RBI and 28 stolen bases between High-A (45 games) and Double-A (71 games).

Added to the 40-man roster last November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, Rafaela was at major league camp for the first time this spring. He appeared in 16 Grapefruit League games, going 7 for 32 with no extra-base hits, five runs, four RBI, a walk and six strikeouts. He also went 1 for 3 in stolen-base attempts before the Red Sox optioned him to the minor leagues on March 13.

The Double-A decision shouldn’t be seen as an indictment of his spring. The organization wants their prized defender to be able to focus on certain areas of improvements, including plate discipline, without simultaneously having to adjust to a higher, more difficult level.

It’s easy to connect the dots to Jarren Duran’s demotion to Triple-A Worcester, which occurred on Tuesday afternoon. The 26-year-old center fielder was competing with Raimel Tapia for the last outfield spot on Boston’s roster.

Had Duran and Rafaela started the season at the same level, they would’ve competed for playing time in the outfield. But the risk of overcrowding didn’t factor into sending Rafaela to Portland, a decision the source said the Red Sox made over a week ago.

In Double-A, Rafaela will be able to continue honing his craft in an environment where he’s already comfortable. There’s no rule that says he has to stay there; MLB Pipeline lists his major league arrival as this year.

The Sea Dogs begin the 2023 season at 6 p.m. April 6 at Hadlock Field against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story