Tampa Bay Rays top prospect Wander Franco had the kind of Major League debut that most baseball players only dream about. The 20-year old’s first big league hit was a three-run homer that tied the game against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night (mlb.com). The young switch-hitter also doubled and walked to cap off a debut for the ages.
Rays fans went nuts each time Franco came up to the plate. That type of electricity is a rarity at Tropicana Field and it was refreshing to see. Here’s three reasons why Franco is set to become a bonafide MLB superstar.
- His Versatility on Defense
Franco has shown the ability to play three different positions in the infield. Though the 5-10 189 pounder is listed as a shortstop, the Rays plan to use him both at second base and third base as well. Franco showed some flashes of his defensive prowess during his debut when he turned an unconventional double play on Rafael Devers and Hunter Renfroe.
Though Franco made 30 errors in 190 games during his time in the minors, the Rays are not at all worried about his defensive skills. Shortstop is arguably the hottest spot on the field. It’s normal for a young player to struggle a bit at that position in the early years of their professional career.
- His Titanic Power at the Plate
Franco has a compact build but his hands are lightning fast with the bat. The ball explodes off of Franco’s bat to all fields, and opposing pitchers will struggle to get him out. If you include last night’s bomb, Franco now has 30 professional homers in only 226 games.
Big league scouts give Franco a grade of 60 (scale is 20-80) on his ability to hit for power, which is an incredible score for a young middle infielder. What’s incredible is that Franco displays the same type of raw power from both sides of the plate. Opposing team managers won’t be able to simply bring in a relief pitcher to avoid his power.
- His Ability to Hit For Average
Franco said he was “born to hit” so he doesn’t lack any confidence in his ability at the plate. MLB scouts agree with Franco’s assessment as they gave him a rating of 80 for overall hitting ability. Scouts rarely give a perfect score to any prospect, so that speaks to what type of hitter Franco can be.
Just how talented is Franco in the batter’s box? As a 17-year old in his first Minor League season, Franco posted a batting average of .351. His lifetime batting average as a pro is currently .329, which is insane for such a young hitter.
The Rays knew they had found a hidden gem in Franco back in 2017, and that’s why they gave him a signing bonus of nearly $4 million! If the young Dominican keeps only putting up performances like his debut, the Rays will be immensely satisfied with that investment. The sky’s the limit for this kid.