Dynasty Sleeper: Mariners Outfielder Jake Fraley

Andy Patton takes a deep dive into Mariners outfield prospect Jake Fraley, who has dominated at every stop this season.

When the Seattle Mariners shipped catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays over the offseason, they were insistent that outfield prospect Jake Fraley be a part of the deal.

Their insistence was a bit unusual. While Fraley had displayed promising speed and contact numbers, he had also battled serious injury issues. In fact, at the time of the trade, Fraley was a 23-year-old with seven career home runs in 151 minor league games, none that were above High-A. The Mariners were banking on the fact that he would stay healthy and that he could translate that speed and contact into a future top-of-the-order table setter—and maybe, just maybe, he’d start to find some power in his left-handed, pull-heavy swing.

So far so good for the Mariners. Fraley is putting together an outstanding 2019 campaign, vaulting himself onto Top 100 prospect lists and even settling into the Top 50 in some cases.

But is this the product of an older minor leaguer feasting on younger pitching, or has Fraley truly turned a corner as a hitter? Is he destined to be Seattle’s next Mitch Hanigera late-blooming outfield prospect acquired for pennies on the dollar, or will he flame out—like so many Mariners hitting prospects have before him?

If I knew the answer conclusively, I promise I’d tell you (and I’d ask Nick for a raise). Instead, let’s look under the hood and see what we can find out.


Figuring Out Fraley


First, a look at what Fraley has done this season. He began the year at Double-A, getting his first taste of that level. He absolutely feasted, slashing .313/.386/.539 with 40 runs scored, 11 home runs, 47 RBI and 16 stolen bases in just 61 games played.

A promotion to Triple-A Tacoma saw Fraley continue to rake. He’s slashing .313/.365/.625 with a pair of home runs and three stolen bases in just 11 games. His wOBA at Double-A was .406, and it’s .403 with Tacoma.

Point is, the man is on a tear. While the virtual tennis balls being used at Triple-A may have something to do with it (his .313 ISO at Triple-A is obviously inflated), it’s nonetheless noteworthy that he has already posted 13 home runs and 19 steals at the All-Star break, as those kinds of numbers will make any fantasy baseball owner take notice.

A look under the hood shows that Fraley’s plate discipline numbers—while still solid—are steadily declining as he climbs the ranks. This is in no way surprising.  It happens to virtually every prospect as pitchers improve, but I still have concerns about his 21.2% strikeout rate in Double-A and 23.1% mark in Triple-A.

Fraley is probably going to have strikeout issues in the big leagues, and unless he can keep those numbers under 25%, he probably won’t be the .300 hitter that he has been this season in the minors. After all, his BABIPs at each level are .370 and .382, respectively, so there is already an element of luck in his .313 average.

More than likely, Fraley is attempting to sacrifice some plate discipline to put the ball out of the park more often—an attempt that is clearly working, looking at his numbers. Fantasy owners will take that, as a guy with four to five home runs per year rarely has fantasy relevance, but if he can approach a 15-homer, 20-steal type season, he’ll be owned in a lot of leagues during his career.

Ultimately, I think that’s where Fraley could fall in the big leagues. The Haniger comparisons are fun, especially for Mariners fans, but I haven’t seen enough consistent power to project him to have the kind of pop that Haniger has. Plus, I think his base-stealing will surpass what Haniger can do.

I could see a ceiling of a poor man’s Curtis Grandersona player with a ton of speed who strikes out a lot, although again I’m not sure he reaches Granderson’s power potential.

Fraley doesn’t have quite the strikeout issues that have plagued so many other speedy center fielders in recent years—like Keon Broxton, Lewis Brinson, JaCoby Jones and Byron Buxton—which should help him carve out a role as starting big league center fielder.

Fraley is a name to keep an eye on, not just in dynasty formats (where he’s probably already owned), but in redraft leagues as well. The Mariners don’t have a great outfield, and in a rebuilding year, it is possible they give him a shot to show what he can do at the big league level down the stretch.


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on twitter)

Andy Patton

Andy is the Dynasty Content Manager here at PitcherList. He manages all of the prospect content on the site, while also contributing a weekly article on dynasty deep sleepers, and the weekly hitter and pitcher stash lists. Andy also co-hosts the Never Sunny in Seattle podcast on the PitcherList Podcast Network, and separately hosts the Score Zags Score Podcast.

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