Texas notes: Fraley not a fan of stats

Mariners No. 14 prospect thriving without checking box scores

Jake Fraley ranks among the league leaders in batting, slugging, on-base percentage, homers and total bases. (Steven Van Worth/MiLB.com)

By Troy Schulte / Special to MiLB.com | June 14, 2019 10:55 AM

Before starting a recent interview, Jake Fraley makes one thing clear: he doesn't care about his statistics.

He doesn't look at them and he certainly doesn't want to be asked about them.

"I have no idea how I'm doing," said Fraley, the Arkansas Travelers outfielder and the Mariners' No. 14 prospect.

But if he did allow himself to take a quick look, he'd be pleased. With less than a week to go before the All-Star break, Fraley is a lock to represent the Travelers in Tulsa. Following Wednesday's game, he was leading the league with a .327 average and ranked third with 45 RBI and seventh with 14 stolen bases.

Fraley's insistence on the ignorance-is-bliss approach is not a superstition but rather his way of simplifying the complicated path through the Minor Leagues while maintaining a grasp of what he said "truly matters."

"It allows me to really take a step back and not really press about something as simple as a baseball game," said Fraley, a 2016 second-round pick of the Rays out of LSU. "Understand that it's a blessing that I have to go out there and enjoy it but also understanding that in 20 years I'm not going to be able to suit up anymore. So it really allows me to relax a little bit and understand what truly matters, and that's my relationship with Jesus Christ."

Being healthy this year hasn't hurt, either.

He'll soon surpass the 225 at-bats he had at Class A Advanced Charlotte last year, his previous career high. A string of bad luck injuries sidelined him last year and limited him to 109 at-bats in 2017.

Two years ago, it was a knee injury suffered after being hit by a pitch. Last season, it was a toe injury suffered in Spring Training.

Fraley said he maintained focus on the bigger picture even during his time away, despite knowing he was missing out on valuable plate appearances. The trick, he said, was realizing what type of progress can be made even if you're not in the lineup every day.

"All of these guys that are making their decision on your career, they're looking at all these intangibles and things you can't control," he said. "So when you start seeing that those things are just as important as those at-bats, then you allow yourself to take a step back and see the bigger picture and realize that all of it matters."

With a healthy knee and toe and a new organization -- he was traded to the Mariners last November -- Fraley is enjoying career year.

2019 MiLB include

He had 13 multi-hit games in May to raise his average 41 points to .333 and he's kept it going in June, collecting three hits on June 2 against Tulsa and two more a week later against Tulsa.

Not that Fraley needs to know any of that to enjoy his season. He said his mind-set will tell him how he's doing without looking at statistics, a method that hasn't let him down yet.

"Everybody [in Double-A] has what they need to go play in the big leagues every day," he said. "Now it's just a matter of who can do it most consistently. … So when I'm allowing myself to be in that consistent foundation and not that real up and down, I know that I'm doing what I need to do to help my team win."

In brief

Heating up: Midland's Luis Barrera has looked every bit the type of hitter his prospect status suggests this month. Ranked 13th in the A's system, Barrera entered June hitting .258. But he had four hits on June 1 and has stayed in a groove. The 23-year-old has a league-best 20 hits this month, including three triples and three doubles, to raise his average to .301.

Shaking it off: Corpus Christi starter J.B. Bukauskas allowed 17 earned runs in his first three starts this season but has settled down since. The fifth-ranked Astros prospect has held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in seven of his last nine starts, including each of the last three following Wednesday night's outing in which he held Arkansas to one run while striking out a career-high 10 over six innings. Bukauskas is 0-3 with a 5.65 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 51 innings.

Stopped again: Ivan Castillo's second lengthy hitting streak of the season came to an end on Tuesday night, when he went 0-for-4 against Northwest Arkansas to snap a nine-game run and a string of 14 of 15 games with at least one knock. Castillo, an infielder for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, is batting .343 since coming off the injured list on May 3.

Playoff-bound: The Travelers became the first team to clinch a playoff spot following their June 9 win at Tulsa, which came with eight games left in the first half. It's the second year in a row Arkansas won the North Division first-half title.

Troy Schulte is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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