Rays phenom Wander Franco blasts home run
Two days after turning 20, the top prospect in sport delivers a reminder of why he projects to have a bright future
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
Pay no attention to Wander Franco’s mild slump to open Spring Training. The top prospect in the sport made his presence heard in a loud way on Wednesday afternoon.
The 20-year-old phenom unloaded a towering drive to deep right field in his first at-bat, and went 2-for-3, in the Rays’ 3-1 win over the Pirates in a six-inning Grapefruit League game.
“It was good see him get a hold of one,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said mid-game in an interview with Fox Sports Florida.
Franco started off his spring, going hitless in five at-bats. A switch-hitting shortstop who turned 20 two days ago, Franco appeared a bit overanxious in his mini-slump.
“The last couple of days, he’s expanding out of the zone a little bit,” Cash said. “More than what he has typically shown.”
The sky is the limit for Franco, the No. 1 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and pretty much every other major ranking list.
Based on projections, Franco has the raw potential to be a face of the franchise, and a perennial All-Star. Whether he is the another Francisco Lindor is up for debate. He definitely has the tools to perhaps be in that conversation.
There’s no denying the talent.
“I think as an organization, we need to do right by Wander, allowing him to go play,” Cash said.
There’s still reason to have plenty of caution with Franco, and all other prospects, mainly because they’ve played so little baseball games since the pandemic shut down the sport last March.
Franco hasn’t played at a level above High Class A ball. He’s also just turned 20. So there is definitely justification to at least give him regular at-bats, while still being able to develop in the Minor Leagues.
Mainly what Franco needs is consistent playing time, be it in the big leagues or whatever Minor League level he otherwise starts off at.
Still, you can’t completely close the door on the idea that Franco will make the Opening Day roster.
Tampa Bay opens at the Marlins on April 1.
Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Erik Neander spoke about Franco’s chances of making the Opening Day roster on Feb. 26 in an interview with MLB Network Radio.
During The Leadoff Spot, Neander was asked: If Franco shows he’s ready for the big leagues, could he break camp with the big league club?
“We want to have merit-based competition,” Neander said. “If he comes in and does his part, we’ve got to have an open mind about everybody who is in here and how they can help us win games.”