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

Prospect Profile: Seuly Matias, KC

In the second installment of the “Prospect Profile” series, we will be taking a look at Royals slugger, Seuly Matias

Height:6’3″ Weight: 198 lbs. Age: 20

Position: OF (RF) Bats/Throws: R/R ETA: Early 2021

Overview: Matias’s best tool is his cannon for an arm. After making the transition to right field, he really stood out for both his arm strength, and throw accuracy. After struggling at the plate his first two season (2016-2017), Matias really impressed during his 2018 season in A-Class Lexington. Even though his season was cut short due to a thumb injury, Matias hit 31 HRs in just 338 at-bats. Well on pace for over 50 HRs in 2018, Matias should be able to manage around 35-40 HRs in the more pitcher-friendly parks of the Carolina League. If his recent seasons are any indicator, Matias is going to produce at an elite level throughout his career.

Currently on a stacked Wilmington Blue Rocks team, Matias has outperformed fellow Royals prospects Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez, but at the same age as them, I would expect all three to follow similar timelines on their journey to Kansas City. Probably reaching Double-A in late 2019, and Triple-A late 2020, all three should be in Kansas City in the early stages of 2021. With a lack of any real talent on Kansas City’s roster and in the early stages of a major rebuild, getting these talented players along with other prospects like Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Khalil Lee, KC might be able to contend as early as 2021.

Ceiling: Giancarlo Stanton – If Matias can manage to put in a lot of work at the plate, a Stanton-like ceiling is not out of the picture. While I doubt that Matias will ever have a below-average strikeout rate, if he can continue to drive the ball with immense power that should not be an issue. With his good defensive skills and great arm, Matias should stick at right field for the majority of his career. A slash line of .265/.340/.500 with 40+ HRs is not out of the question.

Projection: Eloy Jimenez – Jimenez just made his MLB debute in 2019, but I really think that Matias will follow a similar path to Jimenez. Both had a rough fist few pro seasons, but then by their third season, both showed elite power abilities. While it is unlikely he hits for as high an average as Jimenez, Matias could easily hit as many home runs while being a superior defender. Matias should be able to hit around .250 while being in the upper tier of home run hitters.

Floor: Ian Happ – If his plate approach does not translate well to the MLB, Matias should still retain his plus power tool at the highest level. While Happ as the floor for Matias might seem really high, I really do believe Matias has all the necessary tools to become a perenial All-Star. Worst case I see Matias as a .235 hitter with 25 HRs, similar to Happ’s first 2 MLB seasons.

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

Prospect Profile: Luis Robert, CHW

To start of the “Prospect Profile” series, we will be taking a look at White Sox superstar outfielder, Luis Robert.

Height:6’3″ Weight: 185 lbs. Age: 21

Position: OF (CF) Bats/Throws: R/R ETA: Early-mid 2020

Overview Luis Robert is an excellent athlete, and among the most promising talents in the White Sox organization. Having been signed in 2017, Robert’s first two pro seasons were very respectable, although both were shortened due to injury trouble. So far in 2019, Robert has been fully healthy, and his stats could not be any better. Through his first 12 games he is hitting .471, with an OBP of a whopping .518. Not only having an excellent stint at the plate, Robert has flashed his 5 tool talent with 5 HRs and 6 SBs during the same timespan. On pace for well over a 20/20 season, Robert is a guy who could hit 30 HRs or record 30 SBs in any given season. For the first time, fully healthy, it appears as if Robert has exceeded expectations and will make his massive 26 million dollar contract well worth it.

The hope in Chicago is that Robert will pair up with Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jiminez to bring a championship to the city. All three are very young international players under contract for at least 5 years. While Jimenez and Moncada were both ranked among the top 3 prospects in all of baseball while Robert is ranked in the mid 20’s, I could easily see Robert outperforming both. With 3 positions in the lineup locked for years to come, the White Sox are building a dynasty which Robert will play a huge role in.

Ceiling: Mike Trout – Mike Trout is the ultimate 5-tool player, and it is unlikely that Robert will ever reach Trout’s level, but if Robert reaches his true potential, he has as good a chance as any prospect to reach the same status. The start to his 2019 season as a prime example, Robert has the ability to absolutely dominate competition with his superior athleticism and combination of raw power and speed. At his prime Robert could hit around .300 with 25+ HRs and 30 SBs. If he can work on his approach at the plate and cut down on his strikeouts (something he has done early 2019), Robert could be a top 5 outfielder in all of baseball.

Projection: Yoan Moncada – There are some very obvious differences here. Moncada is an infielder while Robert is in the outfield. Moncada is a switch hitter whereas Robert is right handed. These differences aside, if looking upon the two purely based on projected stats, I can’t think of a better comparison. Both players are young, international players from Cuba. Both were highly rated prospects in the same organization. Both are high ceiling guys with strikeout concerns. Both will likely be at least 20/20 guys, although both may struggle to make contact consistently. A fair projection for Robert is a .270 AVG with 18 HRs and 25 SBs.

Floor: Billy Hamilton – If Robert’s hit tool and plate discipline don’t translate to the MLB level, his speed and defensive skills certainly will. Even if he turns out to be a below average hitter, he would still make a big impact with his other tools. At his worst I could see Robert slashing .240/.300/.410 with an elite 2.5 dWAR (defensive wins above replacement), and at least 15 SBs.

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