The moment baseball fans have been waiting for is finally here.
The Rays announced Sunday that MLB consensus top prospect Wander Franco will join the Major League Baseball club on Tuesday when he opens a series against the Red Sox.
We have some wonderful news
– Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 21, 2021
“It is a very special moment for someone in this room …”
The moment our manager Brady Williams told Wander and his teammates that he was going to The Show.
Congratulations, Wander! pic.twitter.com/mN1fQ74Obw
– Durham Bulls (@DurhamBulls) June 21, 2021
In a season in which several of the best prospects in the sport have blossomed, Franco will be the last big name to make it to the big leagues. The last year he wasn’t at the top was 2018, when a young Blue Jays prospect named Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was No. 1 and a Padres shortstop named Fernando Tatis Jr. was No. 2. according to MLB Pipeline ranking. Past year, Shohei Ohtani was No. 1 and Ronald Acuña Jr. was No. 6.
MORE: Top 2021 College World Series Draft Prospects
As Franco prepares to put on a Rays uniform for the first time, here’s everything you need to know about the game’s last super prospect.
Franco is a talent with five tools
This expression is used a lot, but according to all reports, it is the case of Franco.
On the baseball exploration scale of 20 to 80, MLB Pipeline rosters Franco’s five tools rated 50 or higher. His power was rated at 60, his arm and speed were recorded at 55, his field tool was at 50, and his punch tool was at 80, a rare feat.
And Franco has certainly earned those qualifications. Lately he has been on triples at Triple-A with four in his last five games, to go with a stolen base. In 2019, the last minor league season before the coronavirus closed the game in 2020, Franco counted 18 stolen bases in 114 games split between Single-A and Advanced Single-A.
The power? Franco uses his lightning-fast hands to generate a lot from both sides of the plate. As a 17-year-old rookie ball player, he hit 11 home runs in 61 games and posted a .587 slugging percentage. He followed that with nine home runs when he was 18 in 2019 and had seven in 38 games at Triple-A when he was 20 this year.
These aren’t cheap home runs, either.
In an era where hitters strike out at record rates, Franco is a constant contact hitter. His strikeout rate of 11.6 percent is the highest of his career and is the first time his rate has reached double digits or exceeded his walk rate. He has been praised not only for his ability to make contact on pitches in the strike zone, but also for identifying pitches out of the zone. In 213 minor league games, he has 95 walks for just 74 strikeouts.
Put all of that together, and your career line is .333 / .400 / .538.
The biggest question mark with Franco has always been his glove. He’s a natural shortstop, but the Rays have proven him at second and third base. They promoted Taylor Walls earlier in the season, and he’s known for having one of the best gloves among shortstop prospects.
But scouts rate Franco’s arm as above average and have said he can handle short. However, if he needs to move from position, he could use his speed as a well above average player in the hot corner or keystone.
He is still young
When Franco makes his MLB debut this week, he will become the youngest player in the game.
His rise to the big leagues has been incredibly fast – he’s never spent more than 62 games in a single minor league level and skipped Double-A altogether.
And it’s not like it came out of nowhere. Before Ohtani announced that he would be joining a major league team for the 2018 season, Franco was included on the list of MLB Pipeline as the best international prospect He will likely sign with a Major League Baseball club in 2017. He signed with the Rays on July 2, 2017, for a $ 3.825 million bonus, according to MLB Pipeline, when he was 16 years old.
Many of the best international prospects in the game struggle when they initially reach the minors, but Franco proved early that he could handle pitching in the US and quickly got into the discussion among the best prospects in the game.
Comes from a baseball family
Like Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Cody Bellinger, Franco has baseball bloodlines. And like Guerrero, Tatis and Acuña, he shares a name with his relatives.
Franco’s father, Wander Franco, was a minor league player in the 1990s, and older brothers Wander Javier Franco and Wander Alexander Franco have played in the last decade. Javier Franco started with the Royals organization and ended with the Giants in 2018. Alexander Franco started with the Astros and ended with the Giants in 2019, according to ESPN. Wander Samuel Franco, the Rays prospect who received the promotion Tuesday, will be the first in his immediate family to reach the majors.
But the Francos are not the only ones in the family playing professionally in the United States. Uncles Willy and Erick Aybar spent time in the majors, with Willy playing three of his five seasons with the Rays and Erick spending 10 of his 12 years with the Angels. .
He has been compared to Vlad Jr.
Inevitably, when two young prospects rise through the minors and reach consensus No. 1 status, comparisons will be made.
It’s easy to see why with Guerrero and Franco. Both were highly touted international signers who quickly showed off some of the best hitting tools scouts had seen in the minors. They routinely earned 80 ratings as players who could compete for batting titles. It also didn’t hurt that both players were in the AL East organizations and both played on the left side of the infield.
The distinction has tended to be a general package versus a better hitter. Franco can do everything right, if not great, while Guerrero was always regarded as a below-average running back and defender who could also be the next Miguel Cabrera in the batter’s box.
MLB Pipeline asked executives in the league in 2020 to decide which player would be the best. Franco received the most votes as the best player overall and Guerrero took the victory as the best hitter.
It’s also important to keep in mind with a prospect like Franco that he may not take off right away. Guerrero was a solid hitter in his first two major league seasons, yet many fans questioned whether he was overrated. Now, he’s a favorite for the AL MVP and he’s still just 22 years old.
Now MLB fans who haven’t been keeping an eye on the minors can make up their own minds. The Rays and Jays will meet July 2-4 in Buffalo and July 9-11 in St. Petersburg.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.