The Wander Franco hype train continues to grow, and now it could easily stretch vertically across the state of Florida and still not have enough room to contain all those pumped for the emergence of the 18-year-old uber-prospect.
We’ve been writing all offseason about the the wunderkind switch-hitting shortstop: about how the Rays had been following since he was 12 years old; how there was a press conference held for him when he first joined a prestigious baseball academy; about how one scout touted that ‘God had reached down and touched his hands.’
Franco has quickly climbed the prospect ladder to become the top prospect in a jam-packed and lauded Rays system that was named as the second-best in all of baseball. While he was still 17 years old, Baseball America tabbed Wander as the fourth-best prospect in the game, behind three guys expected to make their major league debuts at some point during the 2019 season.
Earlier today for ESPN, David Schoenfield wrote an article about exciting themes to watch in 2019 and mentioned Wander Franco.
Most exciting minor leaguers not including Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays: I almost feel a little guilty being this enthusiastic about a kid who hasn’t played above short-season ball, but Franco is so advanced with the bat that even scouts and prospect analysts aren’t shy about projecting future stardom. Franco hit .351/.418/.587 with 11 home runs and more walks than strikeouts in 61 games as a 17-year-old in the Appalachian League. Mitch Lukevics, the Rays’ director of minor league operations, has been with the franchise since the beginning and told me Franco is the best prospect the club has ever had -- better than Evan Longoria or David Price.
That is some incredibly high praise for Franco, as the Rays have seen some of the game’s best prospects go through their system. Whether those prospects panned out or not, doesn’t matter, while they were prospects, they were considered the best.
They drafted Josh Hamilton in 1999, who could have possibly played in the majors the summer he was drafted—he was that talented. Even after several years off the field, he was still considered a pretty decent prospect by all regards. Delmon Young was also up there in terms of greatest prospects of all time. Like Hamilton, he was a five-tool player who could seemingly do no wrong on a baseball field.
However, according to Mitch Lukevics, those two—and others in the Rays history—pale in comparison to Wander Franco.
Franco will start the season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods in Single-A, but by all accounts, he is expected to rise quickly through the Rays system. As Lukevics has mentioned before, he is already nearly complete playing wise, they just would like to teach him the game better.