Red Sox Envision This Role ‘If’ Ceddanne Rafaela Makes Roster

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The Red Sox know exactly what position they want defensive-whiz Ceddanne Rafaela to start focusing on, they just don’t know whether he’ll be doing it in Boston or Worcester.

It’s a decision that will be made depending on what he can do with the bat.

Rafaela got his first taste of the big leagues in 2023, and displayed the defensive versatility that made him such a highly regarded prospect. The 23-year-old made starts at shortstop, second base and in the outfield, but will primarily focus on the ladder should he stick with the Red Sox.

“I do believe if Rafaela makes the team, he’s gonna play center field,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla. “… He had a good offseason. He was in Tampa the last month working on his body, with his swing and all that stuff. It’s just a matter of how we feel about it, we know the defensive game is elite. It’s a game-changer.

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“If we’re comfortable with the kid playing center field — understanding there’s going to be struggles at the big-league level in the offensive part of it — then we’ll go that way. If we feel he needs to go to the minor league to keep getting better and keep improving, we’ll do that.”

Rafaela’s offensive struggles relate to his swing decisions, which haven’t improved very much despite frequent hot streaks during his journey throughout the minors. He walked just four times in 89 plate appearances last season, leaving him with a meager .281 on-base percentage. That means the Red Sox likely would have to punt on a spot in the lineup should they keep him on the roster for his defensive capabilities.

Cora mentioned how other teams have taken similar approaches, like the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays last season.

Boston has plenty of options in the outfield, as Jarren Duran, Tyler O’Neil, Rob Refsnyder, Wilyer Abreu and (sometimes) Masataka Yoshida will be fighting for spots along with Rafaela and possible free-agent additions. Rafaela could make the Red Sox’s ultimate decision much harder with a solid showing at spring training.

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