Prospect Profile: Wander Samuel Franco, TB

Wander Franco, TB

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

Prospect Profile: Ke’Bryan Hayes, PIT

Ke’Bryan Hayes fielding ground balls at third base.

Pirates third baseman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, is the focus in the third article of the “Prospect Profile” series

Height:6’1″ Weight: 210 lbs. Age: 22

Position: 3B Bats/Throws: R/R ETA: Mid 2019

Overview: The best tool of Ke’Bryan Hayes is no doubt his glove. While his hit tool is very developed as well, the fielding abilities could easily win him a Gold Glove within his first few season in the MLB. Already participating in many “big stage” events such as the Futures Game and the Double-A All Star Game, Hayes has proven he is ready for the majors. After finishing 2018 at Double-A Altoona, Hayes has little left to prove at Triple-A, and should be up in Pittsburgh within a few months.

Part of a pretty depleted Pittsburgh farm system, Hayes is one of the few bright spots for Pirates fans. After seeing fellow top prospects Cole Tucker and Bryan Reynolds called up to Pittsburgh this past week, Hayes is not far behind. In what will be a rejuvenating boost for a lacking Pirates roster, Hayes will likely be better than both Reynolds and Tucker. Pirates top pitching prospect, Mitch Keller, should be up around the same time as Hayes, as bother are currently in Triple-A.

Ceiling: Miguel Andujar – Another young 3rd basemen, Andujar’s minor league numbers are not too far off Hayes’. Not showing too much power his first few seasons, Andujar really picked it up by year four. I think it is very realistic to see Hayes doing the same, as both have almost identical height/weight and similar body types. Comparable to Andujar, Hayes could hit around .280 while staying in the low 20s/high teens in terms of HRs. An advantage of Hayes is that he is much more fluid at 3rd base, a position which requires advanced defensive skills.

Projection: Martin Prado – One of the most underrated contact hitters, Prado is a guy who doesn’t have too much power, but contributes in many other ways. I see him as a very similar player, not only on the field, but in the clubhouse as well. Both Prado and Hayes have a reputation to be very great in the locker room, a plus to any athlete. Although Prado is in his mid 30s now, Hayes could very well be like Prado in his prime, with a high AVG, 10-15 HRs, 10 SBs, all while being an elite defender as well.

Floor: Yangervis Solarte – A decent ballplayer, Solarte has been around for a while putting up solid (not great) numbers. I’d say this would be Hayes at his worst, just because I’d would find it hard to believe that someone with his vision at the plate would be a below average hitter. No matter his struggles at the plate, Hayes will always be a great defender at any level.

Player Grades: Contact: A Power: B- Speed: B Fielding: A Arm: A Potential: B+ Overall: B