A switch-hitting shortstop with deep baseball ties in his family, Franco ranked as MLB Pipeline's No. 2 international prospect before signing with Tampa Bay for $3,825,000 at the outset of the 2017-18 period. The Dominican Republic native made the jump stateside for his pro debut last season and promptly established himself as one of baseball's better prospects by winning the Rookie-level Appalachian League's MVP Award at age 17. Playing against considerably older competition, he produced a .351/.418/.587 line with 11 home runs in 61 games and led the circuit with 85 hits and 57 RBIs.
Franco's robust production during his pro debut reflects his high offensive ceiling. He consistently impacts the baseball from both sides of the plate, showing a combination of bat speed, strong wrists/hands and elite bat-to-ball skills that leads some scouts to project him as a plus-plus hitter. He should offer above-average over-the-fence power, too, especially from the left side of the plate, from where he hit all but one of his home runs in 2018. Franco's approach, much like his physical tools, is advanced beyond his years, and he receives raves for his ability to recognize spin and control the zone.
In the field, Franco has impressed evaluators with his hands, range and actions at shortstop, not to mention the high level of confidence he exudes. He could outgrow the position and shift over to second or possibly third base, though such a move would do little to detract from his All-Star-caliber ceiling. While the Rays have historically employed a patient approach in developing young talent, Franco could be the rare exception, as many have already identified him as the next teenage wunderkind to reach the Major Leagues.
SS Wander Franco assigned to Bowling Green Hot Rods from Princeton Rays.
SS Wander Franco assigned to Princeton Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays signed free agent SS Wander Franco to a minor league contract.