Wander Franco is the hottest name in baseball’s minor leagues right now based on his superstar potential and body of work that he has put together over the past four years.
A 20-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, Franco is currently playing for the Tampa Bay Rays’ AAA affiliate, the Durham Bulls. Franco has been the top prospect in MiLB for two years and is inching closer and closer towards being called up to the big show.
Franco has posted incredible numbers in 30 games this season, including a .312 batting average, .584 slugging percentage, and 30 runs batted in. Franco is one of the greatest prospects ever at the plate, given that he is reluctant to strike out, tracks the ball well, and can bat from both sides.
Standing at 5-foot-10, 189 pounds, Franco has compact strength that allows him to hit the ball with consistent power, even if he only has 7 home runs this season. Some scouts have speculated whether or not he will play shortstop for the rest of his career due to his bulky frame. There have been no indications that he will need to make the switch just yet, and if he can continue to perform on the defensive side, the Rays will be getting a player with future MVP talent at a premium position.
On top of having the physical tools to produce at the highest level, Franco has baseball running in his blood: his father was a minor-leaguer in the 1990s, and both of his uncles, Erick Aybar and Willy Aybar, succeeded at the highest level. Franco was bred to be a baseball player, and he has turned into a generational talent.
Wander Franco and his potential MLB legacy
The Rays appear to have cleared the decks for Franco to appear on the Rays soon than later, having traded shortstop Willy Adames to the Milwaukee Brewers along with pitcher Trevor Richards for Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen, a pair of pitchers.
Taylor Walls, a AAA player at the time, was called up to replace Adames after the trade went through due to his experience and time within the development system. Adames is a nice player and can improve the depth on multiple major-league clubs, but he is not Franco. The Dominican product should expect a call before the start of next season for his first shot at Major League Baseball.
The up-and-coming shortstop is not one to back down from the expectations that have been laid for him or that he has for himself, either. Last April, Franco prophetically told the media, “In four years, I see myself with $300 million on the table.” Ambitious, yes; this would be the sixth contract all-time worth over $300 million, but he could very well demand that much if he produces in the MLB at the same rate he has in the minor leagues.
The Rays are currently the seventh-worst major-league team at the plate despite their 39-24 record, though they are very good at converting their opportunities. Tampa has the third-highest number of RBIs and is in the top half of home run-hitting as well.
While Trevor Walls batted seventh in their most recent appearance against the Baltimore Orioles, Franco could easily slide into the first three batters and would give them a player that can regularly get on base and continue their trend of batting in runners in scoring position.
The Rays appear to be set for the rest of the season with their current unit, given their standing atop the American League East: but Wander Franco is the future of Tampa Bay, and he is the future of baseball.
Keep your eye on the young talent down in Florida, and look for him to enter the MVP conversation in the coming years if he can avoid injuries.