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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No. 11, Wander Franco

 Wander Franco / Sports Gaming Rosters
Wander Franco
 Wander Franco / Sports Gaming Rosters

The Rays continue to be one of the most aggressive teams on the international market, and last year managed to land the number 1 prospect.

No. 11, INF Wander Samuel Franco, 17 yrs old

Born: January 3rd, 2001 in Bani, DR

Height/Weight: 5’10” 160 lbs Bats/Throws: S/R

Signed: by the Rays as an international FA July 2nd 2017 for $3.825M

Twitter handle: NA

Twitter profile statement: NA

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 6th best Rays prospect post-2017
  • Ranked as the best available international prospect for 2017

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 9th
  • Low: 15th

Wander Samuel Franco: Abilities

  • Plus hit tool from both sides of the plate
  • Strong arm and mature defensive abilities for his age
  • Received a 60 “Extreme Risk” grade from Baseball America, which isn’t a grade that’s given often to prospects that don’t have any playing time as a pro
  • “God reached down and touched those hands,” one American League team’s international director said. “Guys with hands like that usually end up in the big leagues. If somebody tells you that they signed Vizquel or Ozzie because they thought they were going to hit in the big leagues, well, that’s just revisionist history.”

Grades for ‘18 (Pipeline): Hit: 50 | Pwr: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Fld: 65

  • Abilities notes: Grades at this point are hard to evaluate but all in all it seems that Franco is well ahead of his peers in all areas aside from power, and that’s what really matters here.

Joined the Rays by way of....

International signing, one of several in a very successful signing period that includes the later signing of Jelfry Marte - a player who could also open the year at SS, just on another rookie level team. Between these two high-end prospects, the Rays added significant depth in a critical position.

Latest Transaction: signed, July 2nd, 2017.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

  • We knew as early as Feb 21st that the Rays were likely to land Franco.
  • His uncles are Willy and Erick Aybar and both of his brothers are in the minors systems of the Astros and Giants (and both are also named Wander - Wander Samuel with Giants and Wander Alexander with Astros).
  • Said one international scout,

“It’s an advanced bat, “ “He’s an offensive, middle-of-the-diamond guy. Every time he came up, I was like, ‘This kid should be playing well above here.’ He can play on cruise control and still be better than you. Then when he wants to shift it up a gear, he’s much better than you.”

“You could put him in Low-A right now and he would be fine,” “He has one of the fastest bats I’ve scouted here. It’s quick with strong forearms and in games he slashes the gaps for doubles and triples.”

  • Read Ben Badler’s entire article on him here. If that doesn’t get you excited about the Rays signing him, please check your pulse.
  • Or, if you’d rather go the other route, let him tell you himself in the Tweet below,

Stats

N/A

Stats Notes: There hasn’t been a more anticipated debut in a while for the Rays as Franco seemingly could jump two to three levels in 2018 (if you believe the scouts), making his stats line an interesting one to look through once the season is complete.

Interesting Comparison: Francisco Lindor

We obviously don’t have any data on Franco yet, but the way scouts talk about him he seems to have the chance to stick at short stop.

With this in mind, Lindor could be a good comp. He came through the ranks with similarly lofty praise. At 5’11” 190 lbs and also a switch hitter, Lindor is right about the same size and profile as Franco.

There are no other data to go on for now, so we can only sit and wait to see how Franco performs in 2017. I can tell you that at the same age, Lindor began his minors career in the New York Penn League, so the first tell-tale sign of the Rays confidence in Franco will be how far up the ladder he’s assigned.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

Here’s the thing - between Brendan McKay and Wander Franco the Rays added two of the five best talents available in the entire 2017 season. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun to watch these franchise altering talents develop, and now that we know McKay is beginning the 2018 season in Bowling Green, we wonder where Franco will begin his career with the Rays.

With the way the Rays were willing to handle other high-end international talents, namely Adrian Rondon, and with Franco’s mature abilities on the field, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him skip the Dominican Summer League (DSL) and to begin with either the Gulf Coast League (GCL) or Appalachian League squad.

Some have also wondered whether he could begin his journey in Hudson Valley, although I’d be shocked if that were to happen. I’d personally think the Rays would put him on a similar but more condensed timeline as Rondon, a rawer talent who spent a season in both the GCL and the Appy league before heading to Bowling Green.

Wherever he begins, Franco will likely move through the system faster than most international prospects. Unlikely others who’ve come to the Rays with raw tools that needed to be developed or reworked, Franco seemingly has a very advanced approach and ability on both sides of the game. We’re looking forward to seeing him play and it’ll be yet another high end prospect to monitor closely in a very loaded system.

And if the scouts are right, there’s a better than none chance that McKay and Franco will be sharing the top two spots in the Rays ranks by end of 2018.

Wander Franco: Spotlight Videos

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 55 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list