Looking at Jake Fraley’s Start to the 2021 MLB Season
Through the first four games of the season, one of the most intriguing Seattle Mariner players has been outfielder Jake Fraley. On the surface, intriguing seems to be a kind word considering Fraley is just 1 of 8 on the season. But when you look deeper at his numbers, you will find some exciting numbers.
Mariners outfielder Jake Fraley’s advanced numbers
Despite struggling to hit the ball, the LSU product is tied for the team lead in fWAR. And the reason for that has been his impressive approach at the plate and overall patience. Fraley is currently sporting a BB rate of 47.1 percent. Obviously, that number is unsustainable, but the fact that Fraley has eight walks in 17 plate appearances is a major sign of growth. Something to keep in mind, he only had two total walks in his 70 plate appearances prior to the 2021 season.
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Part of the reason Fraley has been able to draw walks so effectively has been his discipline at the plate. Fraley is swinging at just 13.5 percent of pitches out of the zone, and just 21.3 percent of pitches overall. Eventually, Fraley will have to start swinging at more pitches if he wants to pose a threat at the plate, but the fact that his discipline has progressed is a major bright spot.
So far, the 25-year-old outfielder has posted a 77.7 mph exit velocity and .214 xBA. The Mariners outfield is going to get crowded real soon with the return of Kyle Lewis, the eventual call-up of Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez’s climb in the next few years, so Jake Fraley needs to start producing.
In all likelihood, Fraley won’t ever be an everyday outfielder for the Mariners long-term. The presence of the above three players plus Taylor Trammell and Mitch Haniger will make it hard for him to earn a permanent job in the outfield except for when there are injuries. But Fraley also fits the profile of an ideal fourth outfielder. He has good speed, is a solid defender, and is a left-handed bat. The looming question has been his ability with the bat, and the fact that he’s getting on-base is a positive sign.
The next couple of weeks are really key for Fraley though. When Lewis does indeed return, he’ll obviously be inserted in the lineup. Haniger is locked into his spot as well, meaning Fraley and Trammell will likely be competing for time in left field. If Fraley can continue to stay patient at the plate while also finding some success when he does swing, he may be able to stick for some time in the outfield. But if the bat doesn’t follow the improved eye at the plate, playing time could be hard to come by especially with Kelenic’s inevitable debut looming.