It did not take long for Jake Fraley to make an impact upon the Tampa Bay Rays farm system. The second round draft pick hit the ground running, and did not stop all year.
It is a fun exercise to go through a team’s farm system, and look at the players that led in a given category. Sometimes, that can lead to finding a possible under the radar prospect, or questions as to why a player did not get more of a chance in the Majors. Despite being drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft, Jake Fraley may still be an underrated asset for the Tampa Bay Rays.
After playing in the College World Series for LSU, Fraley was sent to the Hudson Valley Renegades. There, he put up a somewhat underwhelming .238/.339/.364 batting line, but he impressed with his speed. In 55 games, Fraley stole 33 bases, the most in the Rays system. He also hit seven triples, using his speed on balls hit to the gap.
Fraley flashed the type of skills that could translate into a productive leadoff hitter at the Major League level with more time to develop. He displayed a solid batting eye, drawing 26 walks in 239 plate appearances. In addition to that stellar walk rate, Fraley only struck out 34 times, showing solid contact skills.
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The biggest issue for Fraley last year was that, while he made a lot of contact, he did not have much success with the batted ball. He only had a .278 batting average on balls in play, a surprisingly low number for a player with as much speed as Fraley has. With his flat swing, and contact abilities, Fraley should be able to put the ball on the ground and hit line drives, allowing him to leg out hits and even take an extra base.
Even as he grows, Fraley is not expected to have a lot of power. His swing plane limits his ability to put the ball into the air, but that actually works to his skillset. If he can put the ball into the gap consistently, Fraley could well become an extra base threat.
As it stands, Fraley’s legs will continue to propel him along his minor league career. His speed is certainly impressive, as he ran circles around the rest of the Rays system. As he advances to the full year leagues, Fraley’s steals should only increase. And if he can add a bit of power to his swing, raising that batting average on balls in play, he could be a breakout candidate in 2017.
Currently considered to be the Tampa Bay Rays 18th best prospect by MLB.com, Jake Fraley could surprise this year. If he does, don’t be surprised to see him continue to rise through the Rays system, and rankings.