Prospect profile: Ademar Rifaela had breakout ‘17 (plus other notes)

When you talk about outfield prospects on the Orioles farm, he can get overlooked among players like Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart. But Ademar Rifaela had a breakout 2017 season.

Producing much better stats than he had earlier in his career, the 23-year-old corner outfielder was named the Carolina League MVP at Single-A Frederick. Over 126 games, he hit .284/.358/.500 with an OPS of .858, which was well above the .717 he posted in 2015 or the .713 from 2016. Rifaela hit 23 doubles, a triple, 24 homers and added 78 RBIs. He was a key offensive cog for a Keys team led the league in batting average, homers and slugging, and made the playoffs.

Rifaela ranked first in the league in homers and total bases, second in slugging and RBIs, fourth in runs, fifth in batting average and hits, and seventh in on-base percentage.

Ademar-Rifaela-Hits-Frederick-jpgLike Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Rifaela is from Willemstad, Curacao. He has worked out with Schoop in the winter and stayed at his house on trips to Baltimore on Frederick’s off-days last summer.

In March 2013, Rifaela was signed as an international amateur by Fred Ferreira and Ernst Meyer.

Said Orioles director of player development Brian Graham of Rifaela: “He has a beautiful swing and the ball jumps off his bat. He’s shown good bat speed and understands the strike zone. He’s shown much better patience this past year. He’s a left-handed hitter that has always had a pure swing. His pitch recognition has gotten better.

“Plus he’s maturing as a person and as a player, and if you had to point to one thing, that maturity has really helped him perform so well this year. Young players develop at different times.”

During the Carolina League playoffs, I asked 2017 Keys manager Keith Bodie to size up Rifaela.

“He has some bat speed and I like the way he attacks the baseball,” Bodie said. “He is still a work in progress in developing a plan at the plate and sometimes he shows his youth. But you have to like the results. He’s hit with power and he’s hit some big home runs and hit in the clutch. That says a lot, the type of home runs that you hit.

“Defensively, he needs to improve in certain areas and we’ve worked to improve him. He’s got the makings of a good defender. He’s got an average to plus arm with average speed. We’ve got to help him get better jumps and we know Buck (Showalter) is a proponent of defense first. But that is one area where we have to be a bit patient with Ademar.”

Rifaela was not added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster when the club made recent additions. He could be taken by another team in the Rule 5 draft next month. It is probably unlikely that a team would take such a chance, but he is eligible to be selected.

Quick takes:

* In discussing a potential trade of Zach Britton in this entry from Monday, many readers felt the Orioles needed to get a starting pitcher back for the lefty. That makes sense, but you would have to figure most contending teams would not want to subtract from their current rotations. They might trade a higher-level minor league starting prospect, however.

* When the Orioles announced the signings of 14 players to minor league contracts yesterday, the list included versatile veteran Garabez Rosa. Yep, he is coming back for a 12th season in the O’s organization.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic at 17 in November 2006, Rosa has played 1,154 games on the O’s farm. Save for a few games at Triple-A Norfolk, he’s been at Double-A Bowie since the 2013 season. He is the Baysox’s all-time leader in games (590), hits (650), RBIs (306), runs (273) and doubles (107).

Rosa, who turned 28 on Oct. 12, had a big 2017 season and was named the Eastern League MVP. He hit .310 with 24 doubles, two triples, 14 homers and 91 RBIs. He led the league in batting average, hits and RBIs.

Could Rosa get a look to be the Orioles’ utility player for next season? His defensive versatility at least provides him a resume that indicates he could be a candidate. For Bowie last season, he made starts at first, second and third bases, and played all three outfield spots. And he was originally signed as a shortstop.

* A free agent right-hander is off the board after Texas signed Doug Fister this week. He’s often been rumored as an O’s target. But Fister is nothing more than a fifth starter at this point. Even though the O’s need pitchers, they need to aim higher than this. Could he have been signed for the back end of the rotation? Yes. But I’d rather see the club give the fifth starter’s job to someone in-house, possibly Miguel Castro. That still means the club needs to add two pitchers to slot along with and/or behind Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

blog comments powered by Disqus