Before a crucial three-game series against the Astros that began Monday night in Fenway, the Sox recalled Rafaela from Triple-A Worcester on one of a series of roster moves.
A dynamic defender at shortstop who has speed at the bases and strength at the plate, Rafaela will make his first major league start Tuesday night against the Astros, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
“It means everything,” said Rafaela. “It will be great to play my first game at Fenway. I don’t want to say I’m nervous. I’m excited and very proud of myself to be in this position right now.
With the WooSox enjoying a day off on Monday, Rafaela thought it would be a relaxing start to the week. Then things got crazy.
“I was playing PlayStation with my brother and (Triple-A) manager (Chad Tracy) called me and I didn’t answer several times,” said Rafaela. “Then you responded and said to me, ‘You don’t want to play in the big leagues?'” And I said, ‘Of course I do.’ It was a very exciting moment.”
It is uncertain at this point how long Rafaela’s first stint with Boston will last. The Sox made the move after outfielder Wilyer Abreu was placed on the paternity list and player Pablo Reyes was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a sore left elbow.
“We’ll talk about it,” Cora said. “But for now, this is where we are.”
Rafaela’s main development point this season has been to improve his discipline at the plate.
“In my routine, I even focus on BP and turn the ball around to only swing on balls that are in the area,” said Rafaela. “It helped a lot.”
“It just got better,” said Cora. “I spoke with Chad today, just now. He’s doing a lot of good things. I think the swinging decisions are getting better. We know the athlete. It’s obviously a different level, but we expect him to come here, and if he plays, the more he plays, just go.” “Go out there and have fun. He can play in the middle. He can play short. He can run. He’s been looking for power, and the discipline has been a lot better in the last few weeks, which is very important at this level.”
302 with a 0.870 OPS across 108 games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A this year with 20 home runs, 79 RBIs and 36 steals in his best minor league offensive season yet.
His rise was somewhat meteoric. Rafaela only had .729 OPS at Single-A Salem in 2021 before raising that number to .880 last season across High-A Greenville and Double-A. Besides improving his bat, he has also improved his playing discipline, as he has already equaled his walk total from last season (26) despite playing in eight fewer games.
“I think I’m much better now,” Rafaela said. “I’ve learned a lot. I think it’s just confidence in the process. I know what I’m capable of.”
Rafaela has spent most of his season at center field, but can play any position except first base and catcher. Cora indicated that the Sox will be limited to center and shortstop for the time being.
Described by MLB Pipeline as a “Gold Glover waiting to happen with outstanding range plus arm strength” on the field, he boasts 20 assists during his Minor League career, along with a . 956 fielding percentage at shortstop.
“I don’t like to compare him to others, but his ability to play center field plus shortstop is a very valuable asset,” said Brian Abraham, Red Sox director of player development. “His glove provides so much value and is a game-changer on dirt and on grass. He takes pride in what he does on the pitch and I see him continuing to improve with the work he does and a more thorough understanding of positioning and opponents at higher levels.
Rafaela, a native of Curaçao, hopes his family can make it to Boston in time to start their trip on Tuesday night. Having a mentor like Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen, who hails from the same island, is special for Rafaela.
“It’s crazy,” Rafaela said. “Two players from such a small island, it’s special for us to play on the same team.”