Wander Franco is set to make a splash for the Tampa Bay Rays
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The Tampa Bay Rays have called up the number one prospect in baseball, 20-year-old shortstop Wander Franco, and he'll likely make his big league debut this week at home against the Boston Red Sox.
Franco has rightfully become one of the most anticipated prospects in recent memory because of the rare combination of his hype as an amateur prospect, his explosive toolset, and his frankly-bonkers performance in the minors. I'll spend one long sentence on each of those aspects.
I first saw him late in 2015, when I was working for the Braves, and his trainer brought him out for us to watch before the players we came to see, basically to show off how good he was; he was the best 14-year-old I'd ever seen and was already the best player in the 2017 international signing class.
He is one of the truly rare prospects where you could hang a 60 on all five of his tools on the 20-80 scouting scale (50 is major league average, 55 is above average), thought I'd probably call his glove at shortstop a 55, which is balanced out by his hit tool (the most important tool), which is either a 70 or an 80, and that correlates to a projected .300 hitter.
In his 214-game minor league career, Franco had more walks than strikeouts, 95 extra base hits, an OPS well over .900, 27 stolen bases, and was eight runs above average defensively, mostly playing shortstop, all while being anywhere from three to six years younger than the average player in his league.
I don't know for sure exactly how good Franco will be in the short, medium, or long-term, but I can tell you that both anecdotally and empirically, he's in a good spot. The players that tend to hit the ground running in the big leagues have an advanced hit tool, strong contact rate performances in the minors, and a good approach, along with some speed and defense as margin for error in case they start slowly at the plate. If you've been paying attention, that's basically the Franco scouting report.
Franco has all the elements to justify an upside that is to challenge Mike Trout, Juan Soto, and the three young juniors (Ronald Acuna Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr.), among others, as the best player in the game, and we'll all get to see that ascent begin this week.