Ceddanne Rafaela played in 131 games for the Portland Sea Dogs over the past two seasons, batting .285 with 18 home runs and 87 RBI. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ceddanne Rafaela has been the breakout player of spring training for the Boston Red Sox. His talent has been on display throughout camp, as the 23-year old center fielder has excelled in the field and at the plate against big-league competition.

That showed in Saturday’s Spring Breakout game, a first-of-its-kind series of exhibitions featuring the top prospects in all of baseball. Rafaela is ranked 76th on the MLB.com list of Top 100 prospects entering the season, and he’s hoping to have his name removed from it with a full season in the major leagues.

He has proven his worth in a month of Grapefruit League games with his bat and his glove. Spending a day with other prospects reminded us all how far his game has come. On Saturday he hit a monster three-run home run in an 8-2 win over Atlanta Braves prospects.

“It was fun to be back on the field with my boys, who I shared the field with the last couple of years” said Rafaela.

It was somewhat surprising that Rafaela was even playing in the game. With his emerging bat, plus speed and elite defense, it has become increasingly clear that he should be the starting center fielder for Boston. The last hurdle for him to clear has been establishing himself as a more selective hitter. And the Red Sox are more than pleased with the work he has shown in that area.

“We’re really just trying to hone in on what he swings at,” said Red Sox hitting coach Pete Fatse, “and we just made that the main thing early on this offseason. It’s been a transition from that point on to now.”


The transition has centered on his approach at the plate. Rafaela has lowered his hands a bit, and is trying to limit his movement in the box. The hope is the change allows him see the ball better and react a bit more quickly.

“I’m trying not to do too much with my body,” said Rafaela. “Just stay relaxed. It’s something they’ve been telling me, ‘Just relax in the box.’ So, hey, AC (Alex Cora) was telling me ‘Can you get your hands a little bit lower? So you will be more relaxed. Your shoulder will be more relaxed.’ So I think that’s helping.”

There is always a concern that changing a player’s approach will take away what made him a great player. Rafaela has posted an .806 OPS in five minor-league seasons be being an aggressive hitter. You don’t want to change that too much.

“One of the things I don’t want to take away from him is his aggression,” said Cora. “We can start getting caught up in swing decisions and so the strike zone controls you instead of you running the strike zone. … So far in camp, he’s been good. He’s taking his walks.”

With an injury to Rob Refsnyder, Rafaela will get plenty of time in the outfield for Boston over these final two weeks of spring training. Cora has reversed course and now will get him some time in the middle infield before the Red Sox head north. That will give the manager more ways to use Rafaela over the course of the season, giving the player more opportunities to help the club.

On Saturday, Rafaela didn’t just show power. He showed why he could be a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder. In the first inning he made a catch-and-throw double-play, erasing Kevin Kilpatrick Jr. before he could get back to second base. Two innings later he mashed one to dead-center field to open up a 5-0 lead and open up more eyes about his potential.


While fans are always clamoring for a new, exciting player to make the roster, the coaching staff is being more cautious. No point in creating any more pressure by raising expectations.

“He’s been on point,” said Cora. “I’m not saying he’s making the team. I’m not saying he’s not making the team. I’m saying he’s giving himself a chance to be there in Seattle.”

Whether it’s in the Opening Day starting lineup, or as a call-up later in the season, it’s a safe bet to say that a healthy Rafaela will impact the 2024 Red Sox. And that Saturday was the last time we’ll see him listed as a prospect with future potential. That potential will be realized at the highest level soon enough.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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