Last night, news broke that Wander Franco, the consensus number one prospect in all of baseball, will be called up by the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2017, Franco signed with the Rays for a $3.85 million signing bonus and first appeared in the Minor Leagues in 2018 with the Rays’ rookie ball affiliate. Franco is a 20 year old switch hitter who is primarily a shortstop but he’ll likely be asked to play second and third base as well.
In his 214 game Minor League career, Franco hit .332/.398/.534, .415 wOBA, 155 wRC+ and walked more frequently (10.1%) than he struck out (8.0%). In 39 AAA games in 2021, Franco hit .315/.367/.586, .405 wOBA, 148 wRC+ with a 6.8 BB% and 11.9 K%. Franco is regarded as a true five tool player by Fangraphs where he was given a 60/80 Hit, 45/60 Game Power, 55/55 Raw Power, 60/60 Speed, 50/55 Field, and 80 Future Value (highest possible grade).
Up to this point in the season, the Rays are 43-30 which puts them 0.5 games back of the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East and as the second American League Wild Card team 2.0 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians. The Rays are coming off a terrible six game stretch in which they went 0-6 and they recently lost ace Tyler Glasnow to the 60 day Injured List with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor strain. After a day off today, the Rays will host the Red Sox for a two game set with the chance of regaining the AL East division lead.
Typically, the Rays play either Brandon Lowe or Joey Wendle at second base, Taylor Walls or Joey Wendle at shortstop, and Yandy Diaz or Joey Wendle at third base. With Franco coming up, I’d expect Lowe to see his playing time in the outfield increase with Austin Meadows becoming the primary designated hitter and Franco playing mostly second or third base with Walls getting the bulk of playing time at shortstop, Wendle continuing to play all three positions, and Diaz occasionally playing third base when he isn’t playing first base.
Since we are already nearing the end of June, it is rather unlikely that Franco will reach Super Two status by the 2023-2024 offseason meaning he will likely first become arbitration eligible following the conclusion of the 2024 season instead of the 2023 season. This is especially noteworthy because the Rays are known for not paying players top dollar in order to retain or acquire them.