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May 17, 2022 at 8:00 AM

Notes from the Field: Ceddanne Rafaela, Alex Binelas, Nick Yorke and more from Greenville


The first month of the minor league season is wrapping up, and SoxProspects.com Scouting Correspondent Chris Clegg has checked out five Greenville Drive home games to get live looks at some of the talent on display. The Drive have a stacked lineup, and that’s where our focus will be today. There is plenty to discuss with the emergence of Ceddanne Rafaela, Matthew Lugo, and others. Let’s dive into the players. 

Ceddanne Rafaela has been everyone’s favorite breakout prospect this year. Rafaela has seen a power outburst to the tune of 7 home runs in 145 plate appearances after hitting just 10 all of last season, and he is showcasing a good feel to hit. One of the biggest reasons for Rafaela’s power outbreak is not because he is hitting the ball significantly harder, but rather, he is pulling fly balls more effectively, leading to more home runs. His pull rate is up six percentage points from last season, and his fly ball rate is up more than 13 percentage points. I do not think we are looking at a colossal power outbreak from Rafaela, but he may have seasons where he hits 20 home runs.

Rafaela is extremely quick. I clocked him at 4.1 seconds from home to first, which is borderline 70 grade. He has stolen seven bases in nine attempts this season and shows good jumps and improved instinct to steal bases. 

While Rafaela’s bat has been fun to watch progress, there is an argument he is the best fielder in the Red Sox system. He is likely to play center field and has focused exclusively on that position and shortstop so far this season, but his versatility makes him a plus fielder at all three outfield positions, shortstop, second and third base. Rafaela has an easy plus arm as well. He made one of the best throws I’ve seen this year, throwing out Trey Sweeney at third by six steps.

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Alex Binelas
, a 2022 third-round pick of the Brewers who had once been considered a potential top-ten pick earlier in his college career, has been stellar at the plate this season. Binelas’ strikeout rate is a touch high (31%), but I believe it is more because he is working deep into counts and waiting on his pitch to hit. He is walking at a much higher clip than last season as well (20.9%). 

When Binelas gets his pitches, he is driving them well. He shows good power to the opposite field and 70-grade pull-side power. In my looks, Binelas home runs that landed on top of the video board in right-center in Greenville and to the deepest part of center field (420 feet).

Binelas has seen time at both first and third base in the field. He is serviceable at third base and has a good enough arm to stick at the hot corner. Overall, I think Binelas has raised his stock in the early going of 2022.

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Nick Yorke’s overall numbers are underwhelming in the early going, but there is no reason to worry. At a  point when he was hitting .310/.396/.357, Yorke missed the last three games of the Winston-Salem series with an illness and then had a rough series against Hickory that could certainly be due to his recovery as well as the four-day layoff. 

Yorke’s swing looks even more compact and direct to the ball this season. He is making consistent contact and displaying excellent plate discipline. Yorke is hitting the ball on the ground a bit too much, but if he gets more lift, the power will come with the higher pull percentage we have seen this year. There are signs he may be heading in that direction, with four home runs already in May.

Yorke does not provide a ton of value defensively, but that is okay because his bat makes up for it. Yorke likely sticks as a second baseman long-term and should be an average glove.  

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Matthew Lugo
is off to a solid start to 2022, displaying good contact skills. He has cut his strikeout rate significantly this season (down to 15.6% from 20.0% in 2021 and 23.0% in 2019) and is making more contact. Unlike Binelas, Lugo has been relatively aggressive and swings early in counts—Binelas has seen 80 more pitches than Lugo has this year despite having just one more plate appearance. 
Lugo has bulked up some this season and is driving balls well. His home run/fly ball rate is surprisingly just four percent, as he has one home run this season, an opposite-field scorcher. The good news is that Lugo has 11 extra-base hits so far, and I would not be surprised if more of those begin to turn into home runs as the weather warms up. I have watched him hit several to the warning track early this year. 
Lugo is not a defensive standout and I do not project him to stay at short. He has been the everyday shortstop for Greenville but does not have great range and has average arm strength. He could be a better fit at second base long term.

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Tyler McDonough and Gilberto Jimenez have been relatively quiet in my live looks. McDonough is smaller but generates good bat speed. He likely will never be a big home run hitter, but he does hit solid line drives to all fields. McDonough has a quick first step and could be a solid stolen base threat. He has shown good versatility in the field and is capable of playing both in the infield and outfield. He has focused on left field and second base this year, but were it not for the presence of Rafaela, he would likely be seeing the majority of his time in center field, where he has only played four games so far.

Jimenez has made some adjustments at the plate mechanically. From the left side, he is standing noticeably taller than last year, getting away from his previous very wide, crouched, slap-hitter approach from that side. He also has switched from a toe tap in favor of a smaller leg kick. This has helped lead to more power hitting left-handed, as Jimenez has four home runs this season in 76 plate appearances, compared to 5 in his 487 stateside plate appearances in 2019 and 2021 (some of which were of the inside-the-park variety). 

That said, the increase in power has led to other concerns he will now need to address, as his strikeout rate from the left side is up 11.5 percentage points. His average on balls in play also appears to have normalized, down almost 100 points to a more realistic .304 from .403 last year (although this was to be expected as he faced better defenses despite his 70 speed), which is a significant factor in why his average (.330 to .250) and on-base percentage (.377 to .289) are down significantly. Still, his willingness to adjust his approach is a positive, and corresponding adjustments as he gets more comfortable with those changes will hopefully lead to improvements in his on-base ability.

Photo Credit: Ceddanne Rafaela, Alex Binelas, Nick Yorke and Matthew Lugo by Kelly O'Connor.

Chris Clegg is a Scouting Correspondent for SoxProspects.com. Chris has been writing about baseball since 2019 covering fantasy baseball and MILB prospects. He resides in Greenville, SC and began to develop a passion for evaluating Minor League players in 2017 when he began attending more Minor League games. You can find him behind home plate at plenty of Drive games and other MILB parks. You can find more of his work at FantasyPros and FantraxHQ. Follow him on Twitter @RotoClegg.