The Tampa Bay Rays will soon call up top overall prospect Wander Franco to make his MLB debut, the club announced on Sunday. Franco will be added to the active roster in time for a key home series against the Red Sox that begins on Tuesday. The Rays will begin that series on a six-game losing streak. Franco will be 20 years, 3 months and 21 days old on Tuesday and will become the second-youngest player in Rays history at the time of his debut for the club. B.J. Upton was 19 years, 11 months and 10 days old when he debuted in 2004.
Franco is a shortstop who has been the consensus No. 1 prospect in all of baseball coming into the 2020 and 2021 seasons. This season, he's batting .323/.376/.601 with 24 extra-base hits in 38 games. For his career, he owns a slash line of .333/.400/.538 in 213 minor league games, and he's put up those numbers despite being significantly younger than his peer group at every stop.
Here's what our own R.J. Anderson wrote about Franco in placing him atop his offseason list of the top 50 prospects in baseball for 2021:
"Franco is a switch-hitter who makes a ton of contact, much of it hard; he garners above-average marks for his speed and his arm; and ... look, there's just not much he can't do. One rival front-office member said that Franco could've probably held his own in the majors back in 2019, when he was an 18-year-old. He has a chance to be a special, special player -- it's just a matter of when the Rays elect to bring him up. Our guess would be after the Super Two deadline."
Speaking of the Super Two deadline, it's possible it's already passed, which may be why the Rays are calling him up now. The deadline is a bit of a moving target, and in the public sphere it's guesswork as to when it is. Typically, though, it's passed by late June. Super Twos are the relatively rare class of young player who rank in the top 22 percent of MLB service time among players with between two and three years of service time. If you're within that 22 percent, then you can go through salary arbitration four times instead of the usual three. That, of course, means higher salaries, and teams typically do whatever they can to suppress player salaries. That includes pretending a prospect is magically ready soon after such benchmark deadlines pass. While it's not provable whether that's the case with Franco, it's curious timing if nothing else.
Looking forward, the Rays this season have struggled to get consistently strong production from the shortstop position, and Franco should address that shortcoming straightaway. Given his skills and record of performance, don't be surprised if he starts producing at a high level soon after his promotion to the bigs.