Ceddanne Rafaela quickly becoming Sea Dogs’ most exciting player


Since his promotion to Portland in early June, Ceddanne Rafaela, left, is batting .277 with five home runs, 16 RBI and 13 runs in 21 games. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Playing first base for the Portland Sea Dogs on Thursday night, Alex Binelas might’ve had the best view of the play the team was still talking about on Friday afternoon.

With two outs in the top of the fifth inning and the Sea Dogs holding a 3-2 lead, Rafael Lantigua of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats hit a ball to the deepest point of the outfield at the Hadlock Field. Dead center, 400 feet from the plate. Portland’s Ceddanne Rafaela was there, timing his jump perfectly to rob Lantigua of a home run. The ball safely in his glove, Rafaela fell to the warning track, popped up, and with his right hand, thumped his chest three times in pure joy.

Binelas wasn’t surprised by the play at all.

“Right when (Lantigua) hit it, I was like, ‘All right, this ball’s caught if it’s in reach of (Rafaela), pretty much.’ He made that catch and I started laughing. It’s funny watching all the catches and plays he makes,” Binelas said. “Even in batting practice, I watch him track fly balls. (Thursday) in BP he robbed two home runs and then he did it in the game.”

The youngest Sea Dog at 21, Rafaela hasn’t been in Portland long, but he’s already established himself as one of the most exciting players in the Sea Dogs lineup. Called up from High-A Greenville on June 6, Rafaela has made a habit of making the spectacular plays look routine, and coming up with big hits.

According to MLB.com, Rafaela is the 27th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

“He’s full of energy, a competitor. He has a genuine passion to play the game. I think he shows that every night by the way he plays,” said Portland Manager Chad Epperson. “He expects so much from himself, defensively and offensively. The catch (Thursday) night he made, you don’t see those. That speaks volumes of what kind of athlete he is and what kind of work he puts in. You don’t just accidentally make those plays.”

Entering Saturday night’s game, Rafaela has played 21 games for the Sea Dogs, batting .277 with five home runs, 16 RBI, 13 runs and a .566 slugging percentage. Including his 45 games to start the season in Greenville, Rafaela is hitting .314 with 14 home runs, 52 RBI and 50 runs. Rafaela has 17 stolen bases and has been caught just twice.

Ceddanne Rafaela tries to escape a pickle in a game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Thursday. Rafaela has 17 stolen bases this season and has been caught just twice while playing for Portland and Class A Greenville. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“When I’m in the lineup, I do my part. I just have to be in the lineup,” Rafaela said. “Right now, I think I’m doing well both ways, defending and hitting.”

At 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds, Rafaela is not physically imposing. He generates all his power through bat speed.

“You see those guys come across. You know, Mookie (Betts) was the same way. You get guys, they’re so compact and they’re so twitchy they generate so much bat speed through the zone. He’s one of those guys. He puts everything into it,” Epperson said.

In his fourth game with the Sea Dogs, Rafaela finished a triple short of the cycle. On May 17 with Greenville, Rafaela hit for the cycle in order. After getting the single, double, and triple, he knew he needed the home run to complete the rare feat.

“When I was going to hit, I was talking to a teammate, and I was telling him, ‘Man, I’m hitting a homer right now. I’m going for it,’ ” Rafaela said.

Rafaela grew up in Willemstad, the capital of Curacao. When he was 11, Rafaela looked up to Andruw Jones, the island nation’s most famous baseball player, and played on the Curacao team that represented the Caribbean in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. His team went 2-2 in Williamsport.

When Rafaela talks about his homeland, he could be a spokesman for the Curacao tourism board. He raves about the country’s beaches and people, and calls it “the best place to live.” Rafaela speaks four languages ​​— Spanish, Dutch, English and Papiamento, the official language of Curacao — but doesn’t find that special or unusual.

Ceddanne Rafaela, 21, grew up in Curacao and can speak four languages. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“It’s very common in Curacao for people to speak different languages. In school, it’s very important to know the languages,” he said.

Binelas said Rafaela has a unique ability to connect with anyone in the locker room.

“Being able to speak English and Spanish, he connects with everyone. He’s a great teammate and great friend in the locker room,” said Binelas, who was called up from Greenville while the Sea Dogs were in Richmond, Virginia, last week for a series against the Flying Squirrels.

Although he is the youngest member of the Sea Dogs (pitcher Victor Santos is two months older), Rafaela is in Portland with his family, wife Melanie and 1-year old son Aidan. That support system has been important as he adjusts to his second new city of the season.

“It’s pretty cool Aidan can come to the field and watch me play,” Rafaela said. “I like it here. It’s calm.”

Rafaela plays at full speed no matter what, Epperson said, citing the young player’s intensity taking ground balls in the afternoon before Friday night’s game. Since joining the Sea Dogs, Rafaela’s primary position has been center field, but there have been games, like Friday, when he plays shortstop. The Red Sox organization doesn’t have a preferred position for Rafaela yet, Epperson said.

Ceddanne Rafaela has been stellar in center field for the Sea Dogs, but occasionally plays in the infield. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“As long as he’s on the field, that’s a good spot for him. You just can’t explain hard enough how gifted this kid is, to play two premier positions with elite status,” Epperson said.

Rafaela’s catch in center field Thursday might not have been the best defensive play of the week. In the first inning of last Sunday’s series finale at Richmond, Rafaela fielded Frankie Tostado’s single and fired a perfect strike to catcher Elih Marrero to nail Michael Gigliotti trying to score from second base to end the inning. As the play unfolded, Epperson was hoping Rafaela would hit the cutoff man and the Sea Dogs would get out of the inning allowing just the one run.

“He made a throw 99.9 percent of the people thought there was no chance to make. Elih put a good catch and tag on it, we got the out. That would’ve been the first run of the ballgame and it kind of kept the momentum in our favor,” Epperson said.

Rafaela called his promotion from Greenville to Portland the highlight of his season so far.

“I was working hard for it. It was pretty deserved, I think. It wasn’t expected that fast. It was only a month and a half into the season,” Rafaela said. “The game is just the same (as High-A), just quicker. You have to slow the game down and keep playing your game.”


Use the form below to reset your password. When you’ve submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

« Previous

Next »

Leave a Comment