Top prospect Wander Franco is headed to the big leagues and will be called up from the minors by the Tampa Bay Rays, the team announced on Sunday.
Franco, 20, is a switch-hitting infielder who entered the season ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball, according to ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. In 39 games for Triple-A Durham, Franco hit .315/.367/.586 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs.
He will join the Rays for their series against the Boston Red Sox beginning Tuesday in Tampa, Florida.
The Rays are the midst of a six-game losing streak, their longest since an eight-game skid in May 2018, including four walk-off losses in their past five games, the last two of those 10-inning defeats to the Mariners.
The Rays have hit only .222/.300/.361 in June, ranking 25th in the majors in OPS, so they will turn to Franco to provide some offensive spark. Regarded as one of the best pure hitting prospects in recent decades, Franco has a career minor league average of .332 with more walks than strikeouts. He has thrived in Triple-A East, ranking 10th in OPS despite skipping Double-A while being the youngest player in the league.
Franco has played primarily shortstop at Durham, starting 28 games there, while also playing some third base and second base. Rookie Taylor Walls has been the primary shortstop for the Rays since they traded Willy Adames to the Milwaukee Brewers, but Walls has hit .237 with one home run in 26 games. Joey Wendle started at shortstop Sunday, but his best position is third base, which should clear shortstop for Franco if Walls is the player sent down to open a roster spot for Franco.
“Franco has been the best prospect in baseball for almost two years because of his unique combination of pedigree, tools and performance. He was the best international prospect in his signing class at least two years before he signed and is the best prospect baseball has seen in at least five years,” McDaniel wrote in his preseason top 100 rankings.
Franco will debut at 20 years and 113 days old, which will make him the second-youngest player in Rays history behind B.J. Upton, who debuted in 2004 at 19 years and 347 days.
The Rays held first place in the AL East from May 24 through June 18, but have been hit with injuries recently. Staff ace Tyler Glasnow was injured last Monday and subsequently landed on the 60-day injured list, the ninth Rays pitcher to go on the 60-day IL.
Despite the injuries, the pitching staff has held its own, ranking sixth in the majors with a 3.38 ERA. The Rays are hitting only .229, however, and have the second-worst strikeout rate in the majors. Franco’s contact ability should be a welcome change for the lineup.
There could be more help on the way as well, as McDaniel ranked the Rays’ farm system as best in the majors.
Infielder/outfielder Vidal Brujan has started games at six different positions for Durham and hit .274/.363/.514 with nine home runs, although he has slumped of late. Center fielder Josh Lowe is hitting .313/.365/.619 with nine home runs.
Pitcher Luis Patino, No. 21 on McDaniels’ top 100, has spent some time in the majors this season and could be on option to replace Glasnow in the rotation, although the Rays will carefully monitor his innings. They just recalled reliever Drew Rasmussen, who was part of the Adames trade, and he had pitched 11 1/3 scoreless innings at Durham with 23 strikeouts and two walks.