The dog days of August are difficult for players and fans alike. For teams without contention aspirations they can be even more bleak, which makes late-season call-ups that much more exciting. A glimpse of the future in the present can help tide us over through the final month and a half of a lost season, and its embers smolder through the bitter cold of the offseason. Today we get the first of those call-ups, and the most obvious.
Mariners announce Jake Fraley has been called up. Domingo Santana is going on the IL— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) August 20, 2019
Jake Fraley has looked like a man knowing he’s expected to make up for lost time. The Rays 2016 2nd rounder missed significant swaths of his pro career with a few medium-level injuries. When he’s been healthy he’s flashed the talent of an everyday CF, with speed to cover the whole outfield and a knack for laying out for extraordinary catches. He’s also a force on the basepaths, going 22-27 stealing bases this year, leading the Australian Baseball League in steals despite an injury-shortened season in 2017, and generally wreaking havoc.
Mariners fans got an extended look at Fraley in Spring Training, and it may have been enough to get some clamoring for him on the spot. The quick hands and powerful swing despite being listed at just 6’0, 195 were impressive.
But Spring Training is not enough to go off of for a 24 year old fresh out of High-A. Fraley went to AA-Arkansas, where he did everything you could want and more. His .313/.386/.539 and 156 wRC+ line there reads like poetry, and between AA and AAA-Tacoma he’s smacked 19 HRs in 427 PAs this year. Fraley’s swing has undergone changes since he left LSU as a contact-heavy flat-swinging tweener OF, and by getting the most of his pop he’s made himself into a true prospect. Sometimes that looks like the dinger above, while other times he turns the ball into a UFO for a double like the gif below:
It’s not been a linear path this year for Fraley, despite his excellent numbers. He’s missed time briefly on a couple occasions with minor hamstring and quad issues that delayed his promotion, and until he can show an ability to be fully healthy all season there will always be some concerns. Health aside, however, Fraley has been the most advanced hitter in the M’s newly rebuilt farm system since the organization reported to Peoria, and he’s where he belongs at last: in the bigs.
In sending Domingo Santana to the IL Seattle should be giving Fraley the green light to start every day. Santana was obviously laboring lately, and the 10-day IL stint should give him plenty of time to recover - potentially even through the end of the season. It’d be disappointing not to see more of Santana’s moonshots, but he’s shown enough at the plate while healthy for teams to know his talents, and enough in the field for teams to know his severe limitations as well. Fraley will be the 63rd Mariners player used this season, and he’ll get to debut in Tropicana Field against the team that drafted and then dealt him. Not unthinkably, he could start in the outfield with Mallex Smith, opposing both Guillermo Heredia and Mike Zunino in the opposing lineup. Somewhere in Charlotte, Michael Plassmeyer’s ears are burning too.
Congratulations to Jake Fraley on what will hopefully be a long and fruitful stay. The Mariners 40-man roster is now at 38 players.