Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Erik Neander said "we want Wander to be in our plans this year" during the team's Fan Fest last weekend, Mari Faiello of the Tampa Bay Times reports. This is going to be a common topic for the Rays this spring and throughout the season, and the team's brass is not shying away from the notion that the game's top prospect could debut in his age-19 season. He walked almost twice as much as he struck out while slashing .339/.408/.464 at High-A as an 18-year-old, so he could make quick work of Double-A and Triple-A pitching. If Tampa is really serious about fast-tracking him, he could even skip one of those levels on his path to the majors. Given Willy Adames' defensive prowess at shortstop, Franco will likely debut at the keystone.
Franco has gone 11-for-41 (.268 average) with a 4:4 BB:K across his last 10 games with High-A Charlotte. Franco's recent performance represents a relative downturn, which serves as a testament to the 18-year-old's immense talent. Since moving up to High-A a little less than two months ago, Franco has continued to display a highly polished hit tool, striking out just 11 times in 168 plate appearances (6.5 percent). The shortstop should gradually tap into more power as his body matures, but his .333/.405/.486 slash line (161 wRC+) is still good enough to make him a star player in the Florida State League. He's the undisputed No. 1 prospect in baseball, and that seems unlikely to change until he ultimately reaches the majors.
Franco, who was promoted to High-A Charlotte last Sunday, was named to the 2019 All-Star Futures Game on Friday, Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports. The elite prospect was one of three members of the Rays organization nominated to participate in the July 7 game, as both Brendan McKay, who's set for his first major-league start Saturday, and Ronaldo Hernandez also received nods. The 18-year-old largely earned the honor by slashing .318/.390/.506 with six home runs and 29 RBI for Low-A Bowling Green over 62 games earlier in the season, but it's worth noting he's now also gone 9-for-15 with a double, two home runs and five RBI over his first four games with the Stone Crabs.
Franco was promoted from Low-A Bowling Green to High-A Charlotte on Sunday, Robert Murray of The Athletic reports. Franco will get his first taste of High-A after facing little resistance at Low-A, slashing .318/.390/.506 with six homers, 14 stolen bases and a 30:20 BB:K in 62 games with the Hot Rods. If he continues to excel at the next level, the highly-regarded youngster could potentially make his way to Double-A before the end of the season. According to Josh Tolentino of The Athletic, the 18-year-old Franco will join the Stone Crabs ahead of Tuesday's game against Ft. Myers.
Franco is batting .322/.389/.517 with six home runs and a 12-for-18 success rate on stolen-base attempts across 239 plate appearances with Low-A Bowling Green this season. Franco owns a monstrous 154 wRC+ on the campaign, production that becomes even more meaningful after accounting for the fact that the 18-year-old is not only one of the youngest players in full-season ball, but also younger than all but three players selected in the first round of last week's 2019 first-year player draft. Franco's quick bat from both sides of the plate coupled with his plus speed and plus raw power are some of the more notable tools he offers, but the way he's controlled his at-bats may be the most impressive aspect of his performance in the Midwest League. He maintains a 18:26 K:BB on the season, with his 7.5 percent strikeout rate supporting his reputation as an elite contact hitter. Franco looks well on his way to opening 2020 as the sport's consensus top prospect, especially with Vladimir Guerrero having already graduated from prospect status and star rookies Fernando Tatis and Austin Riley on track to do the same within the next few weeks.
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