Luke Raley started 2021 on the taxi squad for the season-opening road trip and found his way onto the Dodgers roster for the home opener after Cody Bellinger fractured his left fibula in Oakland. Coming in the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, Raley made his major league debut and got his first at-bat, a groundout to short.
“I was definitely nervous, just because of excitement, I guess,” Raley said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was growing up playing baseball. To finally make those dreams a reality was very surreal.”
Originally drafted in the seventh round by the Dodgers in 2016 in what could turn out to be a prolific draft class, Raley was one of three players traded to the Twins for Brian Dozier in July of 2018. Minnesota sent him back before the 2020 season with Brusdar Graterol in the deal for Kenta Maeda.
Due to several injuries with the big club, Raley spent a good portion of the first two months of the season on the active roster, appearing in 23 of his 33 total games for the season by May 20.
Though the lefty mashed in Triple-A for most of the time he was in Oklahoma City, Raley couldn’t get any momentum going in the majors and would end the year at .182/.250/.288 overall. There weren’t many offensive highlights at the big league level but he did manage a solo homer in his only multi-hit game of the year on April 16 and crushed a two-run homer in Colorado on September 22.
Despite the poor offensive output without the benefit of consistent at-bats, the Dodgers would add Raley to the active roster seven times in 2021, including the 26-man Wild Card roster in the playoffs.
He hit .294/.393/.570 (80-for-272) with 19 homers, 60 runs and 69 RBIs in 72 games at OKC. Raley owned a pair of multi-homer games at Triple-A that includes a three-homer outburst back on May 30 when he drove in nine runs.
The best stretch of the season came at Triple-A from August 8 to September 14. Raley went 26-for-75 (.347) with seven long balls and 20 RBIs. The 27-year-old is currently on the 40-man roster and figures to get more playing time at the major league level in the future after getting plenty of experience in 2021.
“It’s knowing how to handle the environment, which is something you never get to practice,” Raley said at the end of the year. “You can never prepare yourself to play in front of 40-50,000 people every night. Controlling my emotions while in that environment was something I didn’t handle so well at the beginning of the year, but the more experience I got, the better I got with it.”
Stats: 12-for-66 (.182/.250/.288) in 72 plate appearances in the majors, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI; With Triple-A OKC Dodgers, 80-for-272 (.294/.393/.570), .963 OPS, 14 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 69 RBI
Game of the year
In his only multi-hit game of the season at the major league level, Raley had a single and a solo homer against the Padres on April 16 in an extra-inning Dodger win. The home run came in the fifth inning to tie the game at one apiece. Raley would later single with the bases loaded in a five-run 12th for the Dodgers.
Raley has 51 days of major league service time, is under team control and won’t be arbitration eligible until 2025.