Wander Franco
19-Year-Old ShortstopSS
Tampa Bay Rays AAA
2020 Fantasy Outlook
Franco's only imperfection as a prospect is that he is not yet in the majors. He does not turn 19 until March, yet he has already mastered the Appalachian League, Midwest League and Florida State League. The switch hitter has an extremely rare combination of elite bat speed and an elite approach (54:83 K:BB in 175 games), which will allow him to hit for a very high average with monster power in his peak seasons. He is also a plus runner, but he is still learning how to steal bases efficiently (56.4% success rate on 39 attempts). Even as the clear top signee from the 2017 July 2 international signing class, Franco has exceeded expectations every step of the way, which makes setting expectations for his third pro season something of a challenge. With the Rays in a contention cycle, it would be foolish to just assume Franco will spend another full season in the minors, but early 2021 is his most likely ETA. Read Past Outlooks
RANKSFrom Preseason
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$Signed a contract with the Rays in July of 2017 that includes a $3.83 million signing bonus.
Expected to be in player pool
SSTampa Bay Rays  AAA
June 25, 2020
Franco is expected to be part of the Rays' 60-man player pool that will report to the team's summer camp, Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports.
The prize prospect's expected inclusion means he's expected to report to Port Charlotte, one of the two sites the Rays will use for their summer camp. The 19-year-old will therefore have a chance to continue his development despite the expected absence of a 2020 minor-league season, with the opportunity to play against big-league talent in intrasquad games projected as one of the biggest benefits of the move. That also leaves open the admittedly remote possibility Franco shows enough to earn a spot on the active roster at some point during the 60-game campaign, although the Rays continue to prioritize his continuing education as a player above all else. "We're not going to force anything. We're not going to throw any additional expectations on him," Rays general manager Erik Neander said in February. "We just want to make sure that we do right by him, progress him in all aspects of his development as best as we can, and prepare him for one day being a Major League player."
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Franco won’t turn 18 until March 1, but already looks the part of a future superstar. A switch-hitting shortstop who may end up at third or second, Franco has the quickest bat in the minors. He made consistent, hard contact throughout his pro debut in the Appy League, finishing top five in ISO (.239), wRC+ (159) and BB/K (1.42) as the league’s youngest hitter. Franco was the clear top prospect in the 2017 July 2 international signing class -- pedigree that topples that of the typical player in that league. But consider this: Vlad Jr. toured the Appy League as a 17-year-old two years ago and tallied a .178 ISO, 122 wRC+ and 0.94 BB/K. Simply put, Franco is a significantly better hitter than the top prospect in baseball was at the same age. The Rays rarely fast track prospects, but Franco should be the exception. His MLB ETA is difficult to peg, as he has yet to make his full-season debut, but he will be ready for big-league pitching before he turns 20.
Prior to Franco in 2017, here are the last five consensus top prospects from the July 2 international signing period: Kevin Maitan, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Adrian Rondon, Eloy Jimenez and Franklin Barreto. Rondon looks like a bust and it’s too early to say what Maitan will be. Barreto is a big-league ready top-50 prospect with some upside and some flaws, while Guerrero and Jimenez are easily top-five prospects in the game. Investing in players who have yet to play a professional game, like Franco, is awfully risky, but recent history suggests it’s a risk worth taking if the price is right. Franco is a 5-foot-10 switch-hitting shortstop who turns 17 in March and is expected to eventually move to second base. He was considered the best hitter in this year’s class, with the potential to hit for a high average and offer 20-plus homer pop. The payoff will be at least four years down the road, but the upside is such that Franco should be stashed now in deeper leagues.
More Fantasy News
Chances for '20 debut mixed
SSTampa Bay Rays  AAA
April 26, 2020
Franco's chances of making his big-league debut during the 2020 season will likely be dampened if there is no minor-league season, Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports.
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Minimal action in spring training
SSTampa Bay Rays  AAA
March 25, 2020
Franco hit .286 (2-for-7) with one RBI and and one run over three Grapefruit League games before spring training was suspended.
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Leads off in first spring start
SSTampa Bay Rays  AAA
February 28, 2020
Franco started and hit leadoff in Friday's Grapefruit League win over the Nationals, going 1-for-4 with a run.
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Will make spring debut Thursday
SSTampa Bay Rays  AAA
February 26, 2020
Manager Kevin Cash said that Franco will join the Rays for Thursday's split-squad game against the Tigers, Steve Carney of Sports Radio 620 WDAE reports.
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In team's plans for 2020
SSTampa Bay Rays  AAA
February 12, 2020
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.
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