FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ceddanne Rafaela is small in stature.
He’s listed at 5 feet 8 inches tall. His slender build, roughly 150 pounds, makes it easy to miss one of the Red Sox’ top prospects in a clubhouse full of grown men.
But his size doesn’t match the expectations for the 22-year-old prospect who took the minor leagues by storm last season.
“I’m a winner,” Rafaela said Tuesday. “I always want to win.”
Last year, Rafaela won big.
Rafaela hit .299/.342/.538 with 28 steals between High A Greenville and Double A Portland. Rafaela tapped into some power, too, belting 21 homers.
“I really didn’t change anything [mechanically],” Rafaela said. “I just changed my approach when it comes to swinging at better pitches. Obviously, when you swing at better pitches, you can do much more damage.”
The selectiveness, though, is still a work in progress. At Greenville, for example, Rafaela posted a 24.8 percent strikeout rate followed by a 19.8 percent strikeout percentage in Double A. Rafaela admitted that, at times, he sold out for power, trying to do too much damage. As a result, some holes in Rafaela’s swing were exposed.
But he made a conscious effort to become a better hitter by controlling the strike zone when he played for Caguas in the Puerto Rico Winter League. Rafaela hit .262, striking out 16 times in 76 plate appearances. Rafaela got on-base at a .368 clip, which was a promising development for the Red Sox.
“I think he did a good job accomplishing that,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He went to the rookie development program [last offseason] and they were very excited about the way he was talking about offense. Controlling the zone, not chasing pitches. So he’ll play, we’ll throw him out there and let him do his thing.”
Rafaela’s thing, really, is in the field where he grades as a sure-handed and smooth shortstop. But he’s even better in center.
“The defense in center field is that good,” Cora said. “It’s plus-plus.”
Rafaela will get a ton of time this spring with players such as Alex Verdugo, Masataka Yoshida, and Jarren Duran committed to the World Baseball Classic. The Sox will move him to the infield, too, but most of his reps will come in center. It’s Rafaela’s first big league spring training and he’s excited to show what he can do.
“It’s a pleasure to be here and show what I got and show the fans what I got,” Rafaela said. “So, yes, I’m happy to be here.”
Rafaela’s big league arrival is still a bit off. He has yet to reach Worcester and the Red Sox make it a point of emphasis with all their prospects that reps at the Triple A level are crucial to a player’s development. Moreover, it will give the Sox a bit more of an indication as it pertains to what they have.
Rafaela is a showman in the field, scouts say. This spring, it should be on full display.
“I’m excited for him,” Cora said. “He decided to stay here [and not go to the WBC], just to be around us and keep learning from us. And we respect that. We actually like it. [It will be good] to see him out there and see what he can bring to the equation.”