Wander Franco, the Tampa Bay Rays top prospect, is the next player in the Prospect Profile spotlight. Franco came in at #5 overall in my Early Season Prospect Rankings, and he is only getting better. Coming into the 2019 season at 18, Franco is one of the youngest players in all of Minor League Baseball.
Height:5’10″ Weight: 190 lbs. Age: 18
Position: SS Bats/Throws: S/R ETA: Early 2021
Overview: The future is looking very bright for the Tampa Bay Rays. With one of the best records in the MLB so far, and one of the best farm systems, they should also be expecting young pitchers Brent Honeywell, Anthony Banda and Jose De Leon to all return from Tommy John surgery this season. Wander Samuel Franco is at the top of Tampa’s prospect rankings, yet he is only 18 years old. Franco is at the top of a stacked system that contains players like Honeywell, Brendan McKay, Matthew Liberatore, Jesus Sanchez, and Shane McClanahan. Factor in current major league Rays like Austin Meadows, Willy Adames, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, the Rays have the best organizational depth in young, high-potential talent. I would expect the Rays to be in contention for the next 6-7 years at least, as they have the makings of a dynasty.
Signed in 2017 for just about four million dollars, Franco has not disappointed in his first profesional seasons, proving worthy of the large signing bonus. The switch hitting shortstop is one of the highest rated prospects by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Coming in at such a young age (18) and already at Class A, Franco has the potential to be a complete superstar for the Rays. One of his most impressive stats is his strikeout rate, striking out only 9% of the time. Hitting well over .300 in both Rookie League (2018) and Class-A (2019), expect Franco to fly through Tampa’s system. Barring injuries, Franco will surely reach A-Advanced, and I don’t find it hard to believe that he’ll finish 2019 in Double-A Montgomery.
Ceiling: Troy Tulowitski – Currently, Tulowitski isn’t the star he used to be, so many people may have forgotten how dominant he used to be. He had a great bat, as well as a very good glove as well. During his career, Tulowitski had eight All-Star worthy seasons, and I could see Franco producing similarly to him. Franco has the tools to hit close to 30 HRs a season, while hovering around a .300 BA.
Projection: Gleyber Torres – One of the rising stars, Torres could be a very accurate comparison for Wander Franco. While its too early to tell for sure, Franco appears to be a pretty solid defender, who is an elite hitter both in terms of power and contact. Being a switch hitter is a plus as well, and he can produce from both sides of the plate, although he has more power from the left.
Floor: Willy Adames – One of the Rays former top prospects, shortstop Willy Adames was expected to be the Rays future shortstop as well as a franchise player. Adames has done pretty solid, but I’m sure they would have hoped for more. Francos expectations will be higher, so I view Adames as a worst case for Franco. If Adames is good enough to stay long term, he may have to relocate positions to make room for Franco.
Player Grades: Contact: A Power: B+ Speed: A- Fielding: B Arm: B- Potential: A+ Overall: A