The Rays have informed top shortstop prospect Wander Franco he’ll be promoted before Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Franco, 20, is the game’s consensus #1 farmhand.
Tampa Bay has lost six straight games, falling a half game behind Boston in the AL East. With a three-game series against the division leaders upcoming, the Rays have decided it’s time to bring up the league’s most heralded prospect.
Franco is seen by public prospect rankers as a potentially transcendent talent. Baseball America has ranked him as the game’s top prospect in each of the past two seasons. BA calls him a “exceptionally advanced” hitter with potential plus raw power and average defense at shortstop. In February, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Franco as the only 80-grade prospect around baseball, placing him in a tier of his own as a minor league talent. Longenhagen projects him as future 80-grade hitter, raving about his bat control, pitch recognition and raw power, and calls him a possible “generational talent and annual MVP contender.” Keith Law of the Athletic praised his “ridiculous hand speed,” incredible plate discipline and above-average power projection, suggesting he should immediately be able to post a strong average and on-base percentage and could be “an MVP candidate at his peak.”
Not only does Franco check all the boxes from a visual evaluation perspective, his minor league performance has been truly incredible. Despite being young for every level at which he’s played, Franco has compiled a .333/.400/.538 line in parts of three professional seasons. He reached Triple-A Durham for the first time in 2021, and he’s been fantastic. Through 173 plate appearances with the Bulls, Franco has hit .323/.376/.601 with seven homers at age 20. Of 102 qualified hitters in Triple-A East, the switch-hitting Franco is seventeenth in on-base percentage and seventh in slugging percentage.
As one might expect for someone who draws such praise for his hit tool, Franco has very rarely gone down on strikes in the minors. His 11.6% strikeout rate in Triple-A this season is the highest of his career, and that’s still less than half the MLB average mark of 23.4%. Over the course of his minor league career, Franco has punched out just 7.9% of the time while walking in a solid 10% of his trips to the plate.
More to come.
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