On March 14, 2022 news broke that the Cincinnati Reds had traded two of their fan favorites across country to the Seattle Mariners. Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker for Brandon Williamson, PTBNL (Connor Phillips), Justin Dunn, and Jake Fraley. On the surface, this trade was two prospects and two young players with major league experience but a limited ceiling. Dunn had the prospect pedigree and Fraley had flashed enough to be at least a fourth outfielder.
Jake Fraley, however, is starting to make others question just how limited his ceiling is.
Fraley did not get off to the start he had hoped for. A poor start at the plate snowballed into a unfortunate start to his Cincinnati career as injury sidelined him for the majority of the season. His absence from the lineup left him as an afterthought in the minds of the fans. His return from injury came at the same time as the trade deadline where Cincinnati shipped off several players from their roster opening playing time for Fraley.
Now healthy, Fraley has an opportunity to earn a starting spot in 2023 and he’s running away with it.
Since returning from injury on July 31st, Fraley is slashing .357/.448/.714, good for a 209 wRC+. He has walked at the same clip as he has struck out, an impressive 14.9%. Through his short career, Fraley has displayed an elite eye for the zone walking at a 13.8% career rate.
Perhaps the most surprising part of his hot streak is his power. In 67 plate appearance, Fraley has six home runs, three short of his season career-high of nine. Fraley has enough power to run into 20 home runs across a full season playing in Cincinnati.
Sure it is only 67 plate appearances, but what he is showing gives the Reds a legitimate option for 2023 and potentially beyond. So, how exactly does Jake Fraley fit into the future for the Cincinnati Reds?
Fraley, 27, is under team control through 2026 giving the Reds an inexpensive option in the outfield. With the lack of outfielders coming up in the near future, Fraley has every chance to earn a starting role. It is more likely a platoon situation will be in order.
Fraley has slashed .143/.262/.181 in his career off lefties making him a “vs RHP” only option. Either way, the Reds need as many starting caliber players as they can get. Finding a short side of the platoon outfielder to pair with Fraley will be rather simple and cheap.
Not to mention, Cincinnati is loaded with right-handed bats throughout the lineup in the near future. Fraley allows some balance while also being able to shift up and down the batting order. Originally slotted near the bottom, Fraley has since taken over the leadoff spot where he is slashing .306/.419/.694 in 10 games.
The ability to get on-base, play all three outfield spots, and hit for some power has made Fraley one of the most intriguing players for the Reds in 2023.