Jake Fraley: Mariners 2019 Minor League Player Of The Year
Outfielder Jake Fraley reminds some in the Mariners organization of Mitch Haniger.
Like Haniger before him, Fraley overhauled his swing in the minors. And like Haniger, Fraley was labeled as injury prone.
"In baseball, it feels like if you get hurt once or twice you get pinned on you that you have an injury bug," Fraley said. ". . . For me, it was getting past those thoughts of, 'Can I stay healthy for a full season?' I knew I could.”
This season, the 24-year-old Fraley hit .298/.365/.545 with 19 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 99 games split between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners called him up on Aug. 19.
Drafted by the Rays out of Louisiana State in the supplemental second round in 2016, Fraley joined the Mariners in the November 2018 trade that sent Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay.
The lefthanded-hitting Fraley overhauled his swing almost three years ago with Lorenzo Garmendia of Gradum Baseball in Miami. They worked on getting his bat in the zone quicker and covering more of the plate.
"He said, ‘Look at what you’re doing—you got away with it (at LSU) based on your athleticism, but at this level it’s not going to work,' " Fraley said. "I had to put my ego aside and say, ‘This isn’t going to work in pro ball.'
Fraley worked with Garmendia to rebuild his swing "from the ground up." Now, Fraley strives to hit the ball in the air.
"I know I’m a strong dude and I love working out every day," Fraley said, "but seeing that work in the gym translate onto the baseball field—I hadn’t fully seen that before until now.”
Then it was just about getting past some bad luck. In 2017, Fraley was hit by a pitch in his knee cap, which ended his season. The next year he was just about to leave spring training camp when he pulled a ligament in his toe.
"But looking back on it now, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Fraley said. "I really learned a lot about why I play the game, why I do this every day."
— In mid-August, the Mariners handed out promotions for touted outfield prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Kelenic headed to Double-A Arkansas after starting the year at low Class A West Virginia, while the 18-year-old Rodriguez joined high Class A Modesto.
— The Mariners called up lefthander Taylor Guilbeau, who was acquired from the Nationals at the trade deadline for Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland. Guilbeau was the 40th pitcher and 62nd player the Mariners used this season. The Rangers hold the record with 64 players used in 2014.