Dynamic Red Sox Farmhand Snubbed From ESPN’s Top 100 MLB Prospects List

Ceddanne Rafaela didn't make the cut


February 2

ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel on Wednesday became the latest industry expert to release his list of the top 100 prospects in Major League Baseball ahead of the 2023 season.

McDaniel’s rankings differed slightly from those offered by other outlets, though, as he left off a highly touted Boston Red Sox prospect: Ceddanne Rafaela.

Three Red Sox prospects landed on McDaniel’s list — Marcelo Mayer (No. 7), Triston Casas (No. 37) and Miguel Bleis (No. 95) — but Rafaela’s absence is notable, if only because it goes against the grain and further raises questions about whether the Curaçao native’s breakout 2022 season was legit.

For context, Baseball America’s top 100 list has Rafaela at No. 71. The Athletic’s Keith Law is even higher on the 22-year-old, ranking him No. 37.

So, why are MLB prospects lists so all over the place on Rafaela, a dynamic player who started in the infield but since has demonstrated premium defense in the outfield, as well?

Well, it mostly boils down to his offensive skill set, with some wondering whether his pitch recognition and quality of contact will be good enough for him to make an impact in the batter’s box at the MLB level. Rafaela is listed at just 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds, so it’s fair to question the power potential.

The ceiling is that of a star, blending elite glove work (in the infield or outfield) with plus speed and an above-average offensive profile, even if his aggressiveness sometimes reduces his on-base percentages. He certainly looked like a stud in 2022, when he slashed .299/.342/.539 with 21 home runs, 86 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 116 games (522 plate appearances) split between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. But Rafaela was a relative unknown until that point, so 2023 will go a long way toward showing whether or not he’s the real deal.

The three Red Sox prospects McDaniel did include among his top 100 — Mayer, Casas and Bleis — all are at different points in their development. Casas figures to be Boston’s starting first baseman this season, whereas Mayer, a shortstop, and Bleis, an outfielder, likely are several years away from making noise at the highest level.

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