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Fraley makes MLB debut for Mariners in CF

Seattle's No. 8 prospect had huge year between Double-A and Triple-A
@Sportsgal25
August 21, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Wednesday morning was a little surreal for Mariners outfielder Jake Fraley. As he sat in the visitors' dugout at Tropicana Field, he took a moment to lean out and point toward a wall of windows beyond the concourse in left field at the Rays’ home park. “I

ST. PETERSBURG -- Wednesday morning was a little surreal for Mariners outfielder Jake Fraley. As he sat in the visitors' dugout at Tropicana Field, he took a moment to lean out and point toward a wall of windows beyond the concourse in left field at the Rays’ home park.

“I remember just a couple years ago, behind one of those windows up there, I was signing my contract for the Rays,” he said with a smile. “It’s a pretty cool experience. Obviously, the whole time I expected I was going to make my debut here, but not knowing I was going to be on the other side.”

The outfield of the future has begun to arrive, and this version has a grateful heart, a strawberry blonde beard and a wicked swing.

Fraley sat down with MLB.com on Wednesday just hours ahead of his MLB debut against Tampa Bay, which drafted him in Comp Round B in 2016. Batting seventh and playing center field, the Mariners’ No. 8 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, was both itching to kick off the next level of his career and content to soak up the moment, a peace he attributes as much to his faith as any preparation or lucky breaks that have come his way.

“I’m a believer in Jesus; it’s the biggest part of my life,” said Fraley, who went 0-for-3 with a run scored and a nice diving catch in his debut, a 7-6 loss for the Mariners. “It allows me to really take that pressure off and just enjoy this unique season of my life that I’m in.”

Fraley’s baseball season has been pretty unique as well. The 24-year-old rocketed through the Minors at a record pace, spending just 61 games at Double-A Arkansas this season before his June 20 promotion to Triple-A Tacoma. Thirty-eight games later -- and after slashing a combined .298/.365/.545, with a career-high 19 homers and 80 RBIs between the two levels -- the Mariners deemed him ready for The Show.

“It’s been a really good year for him,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He was very impressive in Spring Training. ... He’s swung the bat very well, he’s shown power, he’s shown pretty good plate discipline. He can run the bases pretty well, he can steal a base. It’s a pretty good skill set.”

Fraley rates as a plus defender and figures to slot into the Mariners’ ailing outfield right away. He’ll almost certainly provide a welcome respite for infielders Tim Lopes and Austin Nola, who have been sharing time in left field along with Domingo Santana (10-day IL; right elbow inflammation) due to a trio of injuries that left Seattle scrambling. Fraley is the 17th Mariner to make his debut this season and the 62nd player used by Seattle. The latter is a club record surpassing 2017 (61), and sits just two shy of the MLB record for most players used in a single season, held by the '14 Rangers.

He’s also the first piece to arrive of what figures to be the Mariners’ super-youth outfield of the future, alongside No. 10 prospect Kyle Lewis and No. 1 prospect Jarred Kelenic, who are currently with the Travelers in Double-A.

If Fraley is feeling any pressure, he didn’t show it pregame, preferring instead to talk about the great timing that allowed his wife and two small children to grab the same cross-country flight to Florida for his debut. A herd of family members -- his side, from Delaware and Maryland; his wife’s side, from Miami -- also made it to St. Petersburg for Wednesday’s matinee, so there is much, Fraley said, to be grateful for.

Acquired by Seattle from the Rays as the key return in the Mike Zunino trade on Nov. 8 along with Mallex Smith, Fraley is eager to show the Mariners they made the right move.

How it comes to be, Fraley said, is not just in his hands: He’s also guided by the “Psalms 37:4” tattoo across his upper back. The Bible verse reads, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

So far, so good.

“I don’t have any expectations today; I’m just going to enjoy it,” Fraley said. “I’m just going to go out there and try to do what I’ve been doing all year, and regardless of the results, I’m going to have as much fun as I can.”

Haniger productive in Triple-A

Mitch Haniger was back in action at Tacoma on Tuesday night after missing five games with a sore lower back. The Mariners outfielder went 1-for-4 with a triple, two RBIs and three strikeouts as the designated hitter. Haniger was scheduled to play defense Wednesday night for the Rainiers, although Servais said the Mariners are taking all the precautions to bring Haniger along slowly.

“He’s feeling better … but we don’t want to rush at-bats,” Servais said. “He needs to build up at-bats, timing-wise, and make sure he feels good playing an entire nine-inning game before we bring him back.

“It’s almost like it’s restarting from Spring Training again, missing a couple of months."

Haniger has been on the injured list since sustaining a ruptured testicle after fouling a ball off himself June 6 against the Astros.

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.