Wander Franco / Captura MLB Network
Scouts spent the last two years writing reports and compiling lists to affirm that Wander Franco was the most important young talent of recent times in MLB.
The young man in his twenties, born in Baní, was ranked number one among all baseball prospects, both in 2020 and 2021. It does not matter which ranking you look at. It was number one of Baseball America, but also the number one of MLB Pipeline and the number one of Baseball Propectus.
Today, after making his major league debut just over 60 games ago, in June, Franco has become a shining star in the lineup of the amazing Rays.
The Dominican reached 38 consecutive games this week on base. And it keeps counting. Despite his inexperience, he has managed to hit hits or walk in every game since July 25. They are six consecutive weeks without ceasing to be in circulation.
It’s such a remarkable chain that only another player his age has been able to pull off a better chain in the entire history of the Big Show. And that lone bigleaguer who appears above him is none other than Frank Robinson, a member of the Hall of Fame and one of the most renowned stars of all time.
Franco left another famous twentysomething behind on Tuesday. By reaching 37 matches in a row while remaining in circulation, he surpassed another precocious legend, the mythical Mickey Mantle.
Because the shortstop, who in LIDOM belongs to the Lions of the Chosen One, walks right now among legends. Although some might think it is
very soon to be sure.
“It’s good to be able to be on the same list with names like Mickey Mantle,” admitted the shortstop, questioned by MLB.com and other outlets about his amazing run. “He was a superstar and I’m glad I was able to pull this off.”
Franco enters the weekend with solid numbers. He has a line of .282 / .344 / .461, with .806 OPS. Great for a beginner. Great for a shortstop.
He has added 26 extra-base hits in just 61 games. And he’s defended the shortstop adequately, with a somewhat below-average range factor and an above-average defensive bWAR in the Big Top. In addition, 62 percent of the time he has been able to take an extra pad with his teammates’ hits.
This gem from Quisqueya is authoritatively carving a place in the new generation of stars, led by his compatriots Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Venezuelan Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Japanese Shohei Ohtani.
He plays with intensity and does things that seem very advanced for his age. Because he is able to contribute immediately to a squad that is fighting for the playoffs and that this year aspires to win the World Series.
“I have said it many times and continue to say it. Because it feels so good to say: he’s really talented, really special, ”manager Kevin Cash expressed this week. “He just has the ability to help us win in so many different ways.”
Franco doesn’t appear in the Rookie of the Year discussions, because he hasn’t even played half the calendar. But the discussion – which includes his partner Randy Arozarena, the Cuban Adolis García, the Dominican Enmanuel Clase and the Venezuelan Luis García – could open up to continue at this pace, to include him as well.
How to keep him off the voting rolls, if he continues to play that way?
The Cuban Arozarena is one of the favorites to take the award and is also the main figure of the Rays. At least his bWAR of 3.7 is the highest in Tampa Bay. But beware, with just 61 crashes Franco is already 2.9, thanks to his vigorous pace.
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Scouts spent two years trying to convince us of this young man’s special talent, even though he has barely four seasons as a professional player. And they were right.
Franco came to the majors as the most hyped prospect. And it does not matter that having made the leap in June is going to prevent him from winning the award for best recruit. At this rate, with what he is demonstrating, in the future he will be aspiring to many more recognitions.