The top prospect in baseball will most likely be making his major-league debut against the Red Sox this week.
That’s right, the Tampa Bay Rays will be calling up infield prospect Wander Franco ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Sox at Tropicana Field, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.
Franco, 20, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in Major League Baseball and has been for the last two seasons.
Originally signing with the Rays out of the Dominican Republic for $3.85 million in the early stages of the 2017 international signing period, the switch-hitting infielder has since emerged as one of the game’s top young talents while being compared to the likes of the Indians’ Jose Ramirez and Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
This season alone, Franco has lit it up with Triple-A Durham, slashing .315/.367/.586 with 11 doubles, six triples, seven home runs, 35 RBI, 30 runs scored, 12 walks, 21 strikeouts, and five stolen bases over 39 games played (177 plate appearances).
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Franco is a natural shortstop, but has also seen time at both second and third base with Durham this year and is likely to move around the infield when he joins the Rays as well.
Per his Baseball America scouting report, Franco “is an exceptionally advanced hitter for his age. The switch-hitter’s compact, level stroke and above-average bat speed from both sides of the plate grant him a controlled aggression most young hitters can’t match. His bat control allows him to make consistent hard contact while rarely striking out. He also has an innate ability to adjust his swing, leaving few holes for pitchers to attack. Franco stings the ball and has plus power potential, but his level swing leads to more line drives and ground balls than fly balls. He has shown in team competitions that he can put on a show in a home run derby. Franco’s body has already filled out. He is an average runner who will have to work to keep his speed with a thick, muscular lower half.
“Defensively, Franco’s soft hands, above-average arm and solid understanding of the game give him a shot to stay at shortstop, where he’s a potentially average defender. The Rays played him at second base and third base at the alternate site [last year] to help prepare for the possibility he could break into the majors at another spot. He has the tools to be an above-average or even plus defender at second or third.”
Assuming Franco, whose father and two older brothers played in the minors while two of his uncles — Erick and Willy Aybar — played in the majors, does make his big-league debut at the Trop this week, this will be the second time in four seasons the Rays have debuted one of their top prospects when going up against the Red Sox.
Back on May 22, 2018, shortstop Willy Adames, then Tampa Bay’s No. 2 overall prospect according to Baseball America, also made his major-league debut when the Sox were in town in St. Petersburg.
Adames, who is still just 25 years old, has since been dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. That trade took place as recently as last month, with the Rays presumably making the move with the future of Franco in mind.
The Rays themselves have been on a bit of a tailspin of late, as they have dropped six straight to fall a half game back of the Red Sox for first place in the American League East.
Boston and Tampa Bay open up a three-game series in St. Pete on Tuesday night, and the likelihood of such a highly-touted prospect such as Franco making his long-awaited debut just adds more value to what should be a riveting week of baseball for both clubs.
(Picture of Wander Franco: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)