On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Rays infielder Wander Franco made his big-league debut. Franco, long considered to be the best prospect in the minors by scouts and analysts alike, went 2 for 4 against the Boston Red Sox, driving in three runs on a home run while also contributing a double and a walk.
With Franco at last completing his trek up the organizational ladder (one rival executive told CBS Sports that he thought the 20-year-old Franco was big-league ready in September … of 2019), this week's Prospect Watch is asking a pertinent question: who is the best youngster yet to debut in the majors?
Let's rank three players who have a claim to the title.
1. Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles
Rutschman, the No. 1 pick in 2019, is undoubtedly the best catching prospect in the minors. He's a switch hitter whose boosters believe will develop four plus tools at maturation. (The exception, perhaps obviously given his position, is speed.) The Orioles have stationed Rutschman at Double-A Bowie so far this season, and he's responded by hitting .289/424/.539 with 11 home runs and as many walks as strikeouts (34 each) in nearly 200 plate appearances. That'll play. It seems like a matter of time before Rutschman is promoted to Triple-A, and he should have favorable odds of debuting before the season ends.
2. Julio Rodríguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
Seattle's other promising young outfielder, Rodríguez has recovered from a rough winter-ball stint to hit .325/.410/.581 with six homers at High-A Everett. (He's also made waves with his performance for the Dominican Republic in Olympic qualifying.) He fits the stereotypical right-field template by having big-time power and a strong arm. The question with him has been his approach, so it's encouraging that he's drawing nearly four more walks per 100 plate appearances than he did when we last saw him in 2019. Given that Rodríguez won't turn 21 until December, and given that the Mariners have shown no reluctance toward gaming their prospects' service time, it's reasonable to think he won't be reaching the Show until sometime between next spring and summer.
3. CJ Abrams, SS, San Diego Padres
As if the Padres didn't have enough exciting youngsters already, Abrams seems likely to make his debut either late this season or early next. He won't celebrate his 21st birthday until October, yet he's hitting .295/.359/.417 with 10 steals on 11 attempts against much older Double-A competition. Those marks may not seem impressive, but his OPS is 56 points above his San Antonio team's average, and 46 points above the Double-A Central average. Whenever a younger player is posting numbers like that -- and especially when that player has the pedigree and tools outlay that Abrams does -- it's worth taking notice.