Baseball is right around the corner, with pitchers and catchers reporting for duty this month. As MLB returns for spring training, teams will be keeping on eye on their young talent in their minor league systems to see who can contribute now and in the future. Spring is when MLB teams evaluate their prospects to determine who’s cut out for the bigs and who isn’t.
There’s one prospect in particular who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Meet MLB’s top 2020 prospect: the Tampa Bay Rays’ Wander Franco.
The top MLB prospect
Franco is part of the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor league system, which some have called the best in baseball. He is a shortstop switch hitter who played both levels of A-ball last season: low- and high-A.
Franco hit .327 last season, adding nine home runs. He also walked nine times more than he struck out. His only major drawback was his steal attempts: he stole 18 bases but was caught stealing 14 times.
One of Franco’s best attributes is his age. He’s only 18 and will turn 19 in March. That gives him plenty of time to grow into his potential.
Wander Franco’s skillset
Franco has it all — power, speed, the ability to hit for average, and fielding ability. In short, he has all the tools needed to be a difference-maker at the MLB level.
Former Rays’ vice president and current Red Sox executive Chaim Bloom spoke to Franco’s skill set:
“He’s had an incredible year…The numbers speak for themselves, but the instincts and feel for the game, on both sides of the ball, stand out even beyond his performance.
“Part of that is how infrequently he strikes out. Rarely do you see someone with such a knack for making contact in today’s game—at any age. To put the ball in play as often as he did at 18, in the leagues where he played, is unheard of.”
Bloom also commented on Franco’s inability to be intimidated by high-pressure situations:
“But the thing about Wander is that…he likes the lights. He’s comfortable being under that microscope. So while he’s still growing up, and there are still many tests ahead of him, what we’ve seen so far gives us confidence that he’s going to be just fine.”
A player with just about every skill needed to be a star and a penchant for liking the bright lights of the MLB stage is just what the Rays need. He sounds like he has the making of a new superstar.
What does the future hold for this MLB prospect?
Wander Franco is still incredibly young. He’s also playing at one of the lowest minor league levels a player can play at. So the idea of him playing for the Rays anytime soon is probably far-fetched. But fans should probably expect him at the majors anywhere from two to five years from now.
It depends on his development, but it’s not outrageous to think he could reach the majors by 21. Tampa Bay will have a better gauge of when he’ll be ready after this season.
Right now, the Rays have the young and talented Willy Adames at shortstop. Only 24 years old, Adames hit 20 home runs last year and knocked in 52 runs. He’s also not a free agent until the 2025 season.
If Franco develops quicker than expected, it’s possible Adames or Franco will move positions to accommodate having both in the lineup. But one thing’s for sure: Franco will be in Tampa sooner rather than later. It’s just a question of what position he’s playing and how old he is when he gets there.