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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No. 40, OF Jake Fraley

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Is he the future in center field?

The next player up on our list is the kind of player the Rays have been able to spot fairly effectively over the years, and most famously when they were smart enough to grab Kevin Kiermaier in the 31st round of the 2010 draft.

No.40, OF Jake Arnold Fraley, 22 yrs old

Born: May 25th, 1995 in Frederick, MD

Height/Weight: 6’0” 195 lbs Bats/Throws: L/L

Signed: by the Rays after taken in rd 2.5 of 2016 draft for $797,500

Twitter handle: @jfral_23

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked 23rd best Rays prospect after the 2016 season
  • Ranked first to make it to MLB among 2016 draft class
  • Named the best defensive outfielder within the Rays system by BA for 2017

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 30
  • Low: 56

Jake Fraley: Abilities

  • Plus-Plus Range in the OF
  • Average arm
  • Base-stealer who runs bases extremely well
  • Noted as best defensive OF in Rays system
  • Abilities notes: None can match Fraley’s range and instincts in CF within the Rays system, and although he’d show little power through 2017’s regular season (much of it lost to injury), he showed a great deal while playing in the ABL. It remains to be seen whether or not that translates States side in 2018.

But one thing we know will translate is that speed, as noted by his ABL team on Twitter,

Joined the Rays by way of....

  • The 2016 draft, 77th overall, and was the 3rd outfielder in a row selected by the Rays (although Lowe was initially taken as a 3B). It was the second time the Rays selected an outfielder out of LSU, with Mikie Mahtook being the other notable.
  • The Rays had a slot allotment of $826,200 to sign Fraley and ultimately signed him at a slight discount, for $797,500.

Latest Transaction: activated from the 7-day disabled list by Charlotte 4 September 2017.

Note - Was placed on the DL by Charlotte on May 30th, and went on a rehab assignment with the GCL Rays on August 24th for a total of 2 weeks before being activated. To get some more playing time, he’s currently playing for the Perth Heat in the Australian Baseball League.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

"In the outfield, even though I do have some experience under my belt, there's still so much for me to learn. I know what (Stevenson's and Laird's) expectations are, and I'm working even harder to try to get faster and get some better jumps because I know they aren't going to let anything fall between them."

  • Made the ABL all-star game and performed well:

Stats

Jake Fraley 2017

GP 30
GP 30
PA 122
AB 109
Hits 23
Doubles 6
Triples 1
Home Runs 2
RBI 14
SB (CS) 4 (4)
AVG 0.211
OBP 0.279
SLG 0.339
OPS 0.618
BB% 7.4%
SO% 22.1%
ISO 0.128
BAbip 0.256
wOBA 0.286
wRC+ 76

Stats Notes: Spent 2016 in Hudson Valley for a short-season’s play and skipped over Bowling Green in 2017, heading straight to A+ Charlotte. Some of the struggles (.170/.238/.255) he faced there at the plate can likely be attributed in some way to the much stiffer pitching he faced than he had previously experienced, but also in part due to injuries he sustained.

Interesting Comparison: Kevin Kiermaier

  • Both Kevin and Jake are approximately the same size, both hit left-handed, and both are renowned for being among the best defensive outfielders within the system.
  • Oddly enough, Kiermaier also went to the ABL to gain some experience over the winter in 2011, playing for Canberra and hit .303/.378/.394 with 6 doubles and 0 HR in 66 AB and managed 4 SB (3 CS), while Fraley went there this offseason hitting .336/.415/.639 and 9 HR in 119 ABs and added 25 SB (2 CS) for Perth.
  • Fraley had a bit of a lost season in 2017, but if we look at what he managed for Hudson Valley in 2016 (206 AB) and compare it to what KK did at the same age we can see that their bats are essentially in the same place at the very same age for Bowling Green (402 AB), we can get an idea of how similar they were at those times:

KK (2011, BG): .241/.316/.338, 11 DB, 8 TR, 4 HR, 8.1% BB%, 21.6% SO%, 27 SB (10 CS)

Fraley (2016, HV): .238/.339/.364, 9 DB, 7 TR, 1 HR, 10.9% BB%, 14.2% SO%, 33 SB (9 CS)

  • As our closest comparison in the system, what we see is Fraley performing exceedingly well at the same stage of his development, but with half the at bats and at a higher A-Ball level, resulting in double the rate of SB activity (with a similar CS rate), a better K:BB in volume and quality, and twice the rate of doubles and triples per at bat. His lack of home runs in A-Ball is mollified by his recent performance in Australia.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

When Jake Fraley was selected by the Rays in 2016, he was noted by BA (in their handbook, at least) as the most likely candidate to reach MLB first. This was based mostly on his defensive abilities and speed. Those are the tools that are going to carry Fraley going forward. What has many Rays fans, writers, and analysts worried, however, is the lack of playing time due to injury, and the need to improve his caught-stealing.

It remains to be seen whether or not he can also add some life to his bat beginning in 2018, whether it be by way of the hit tool or by adding power (or dare we say both?). But to get a feeling about whether or not he will turn things up a notch now that he’s dominated the ABL, let’s use another ABL graduate outfielder (a more recent one than KK) as an example of how one can benefit from a winter down under. Let’s take a look at how Justin Williams’ play changed thereafter,

  • Fraley (22) - 2017 - HiA - 94 AB - hit .238/.255/.493 with 3 DBL, 1 TR, 1 HR, 1 SB
  • Fraley ABL post-2017 - 119 AB - hit .336/.415/.639 with 9 DBL, 9 HR, 25 SB (2 CS)
  • Williams (19) - 2015 - HiA - 86 AB - hit .241/.250/.301 with 5 DBL, 0 HR, 3 SB
  • Williams ABL post-2015 - 184 AB - hit .342/.398/.582 with 12 DBL, 1 TR, 10 HR, 8 SB
  • Williams in 2016 - HiA/AA - 358 PA - hit .295/.318/.447 with 18 DBL, 2 TR, 10 HR

*Notes: Fraley almost hit as many HR as Williams despite getting 65 fewer AB, and Williams’ ISO jumped from .117 in 2015 to .152 in 2016

Now, it’s true that we can’t assign all of the credit for Williams’ marked improvements year-over-year on his experience in the ABL, some of it is natural growth in already present talent, as well as hard work he would have put in regardless of the ABL. But what I can tell you that he knew how to make the most of that experience and exactly why he was there to put in the work:

“My main focus in Australia is just getting better overall as a baseball player,” Williams said. “Offensively, defensively, and baserunning. As of now my biggest strength is my offense. My defense is getting better but by the time I make it to the big leagues I want to be an all-around player ... Being here is really going to benefit me. They want me to come here and get more at-bats, more baseball and just get better.”

And that’s how Fraley took that opportunity on after a much lost 2017 season. It’s true that Fraley had more experience and was older than Williams when he headed to Australia, but he put on one of the most electrifying performances that league has seen and is now set to take on that same attitude on American soil.

To put Fraley’s performance into perspective, he stole 25 bases, and the next highest had 7 SB. He simultaneously led the league in HR and TB, finished 3rd in hits (40), 4th in doubles (9), 5th with 16 BB, 6th with a 1.053 OPS (including a respectable .865 OPS vs LHP), all while leading off for Perth. He also hit .375/.429/.563 with RISP.

In short, he put in the work and gained a ton of confidence through his experience in the ABL and now has that to build upon in 2018.

There’s no doubt that Fraley can handle AA defensively speaking, and if his bat shows the life it had in the ABL this spring he could very well start the season there. After all, there are a glut of outfielders right behind him looking for outfield spots in Charlotte (Jesus Sanchez, Garrett Whitley, Josh Lowe, and Eleardo Cabrera — who all seem set to take a step forward). It’s also possible that the Rays take a quick look at him in Charlotte before promoting him.

In either case, Fraley’s performance this winter has all of us (including the Rays) holding our breaths that it translates into a major success thereafter. With his toolset, he has what it takes to become an every day CFer in MLB, and he’s one guy to follow very closely in 2018.

Jake Fraley: Spotlight Videos

I know these bombs are in the ABL, but note the swing and the location of each bomb.

  • This is an interview he had while at LSU, to give you a look at how he sees things and how personable he is,

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 50 Rays Prospects