The next Mookie Betts? Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela amazes teammates, foes

Tomase: Red Sox honor most exciting prospect since Mookie Betts originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Red Sox honored their minor league players of the year on Monday, but for a while they were missing the main attraction.

While slugger Niko Kavadas and speedster David Hamilton held court with the media, and Dominican standouts Andy Lugo and Eyberrson Polanco gazed at the field in wonder, everyone had one question: Where's Ceddanne Rafaela?

The most exciting Red Sox prospect since Mookie Betts was stuck in traffic, but when he arrived in an impeccably tailored charcoal suit, he immediately drew a crowd.

Rafaela carried himself just a little bit differently than his fellow honorees. He looked a little more sure of himself, a little more confident that one day -- perhaps next year -- he'll call Fenway Park home. That's what happens when teammates, opponents, and even evaluators reach for the same comparison when likening the insanely athletic defensive whiz to Betts, who's merely a former MVP and World Series champion.

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"That's big because he's obviously one of the best players in the league," Rafaela said. "It's a privilege that they compare me to him, but he's Mookie and I'm Rafaela."

What that means for the Red Sox remains to be seen, but there's legitimate reason for excitement. Whereas many of the club's top prospects took steps back or remained stationary this year, Rafaela soared. Listed at just 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds -- there's the first Betts comparison -- the high-flying super utilityman played the kind of defense in center field that has many predicting a Gold Glove, but with the bonus of above-average glovework at shortstop, too.

Add surprising power for a player of his size -- 21 homers and an .880 OPS between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland -- and we're looking at someone who could force his way to Boston next season.

"He's really quick-twitch," said Kavadas, who slammed 26 homers of his own. "He's strong. The frame might not be huge, but there's a lot of strength in there. He moves so well. He's so free and so mobile and so quick-twitch. He's really strong."

Kavadas was named the organization's offensive player of the year, but that honor easily could've gone to Rafaela, who took the defensive award.

"That's a good issue to have," said farm director Brian Abraham. "He certainly could have won a couple. Judging from our staff's objective information, it's hard not to give him the defender (of the year) for what he's done at multiple positions."

Rafaela's defensive highlights have become appointment viewing on social media, with a series of diving catches, scaled fences, and over-the-shoulder wizardry. But he actually believes his best catch came in Asheville, where the game wasn't broadcast.

"I was playing the shift to left field," he said. "I was in left-center. It was a line drive in center to right-center I made a Superman diving catch. It was crazy. If anyone has the video, I'd love to see it."

Kavadas marveled at his range.

"I got a little taste of it last year in Salem," Kavadas said. "I came up and in my very first game he makes a diving catch towards the line, down the left field line, stands up and throws it all the way across the field to me at first base and hits No. 2 on the Top 10 (highlights) or something like that. I was just like, 'That kid, he's special.'"

As special as Mookie? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but Rafaela at the very least has a chance to make an impact in the big leagues, just five years after signing out of Curacao in 2017.

"I think it's certainly exciting, but Mookie Betts is Mookie Betts," Abraham said. "What he did here, what he continues to do with the Dodgers, is incredible. I think Ceddanne is happy that he's Ceddanne Rafaela, and he'll continue to be his own player. I think any time you compare yourself to some of the greater players in the game, it's pretty special."