The year was 2017. The month, July. Two days before fireworks across the country shot up into the sky, the Tampa Bay Rays made some fireworks of their own, signing 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Wander Franco to a 3.85 million dollar contract. Franco was arguably the top international prospect available and if you watch him for two seconds, it’s easy to see why.
In all my years of covering prospects, I can’t remember any that have skyrocketed up rankings as quickly as Franco. Damn, I make myself sound old saying “In all my years.” But it’s true. I might not be some grizzled old scout here, but I’ve been focused on the prospect scene since my youth and Franco is on a meteoric rise. He’s basically the Halley’s comet of prospects right now. I’ve gone over him in various pieces over the last few months, but now seemed like a good time to go in depth on him after the completion of his first minor league season.
Wander Franco Scouting Report
Tools are on the 20-80 scouting scale (Current/future projection)
Age: 17, Born 3/1/2001
2018 Season Review
Appalachian Rookie League – Princeton (242 AB): .351/.418/.587/1.004, 10 2B, 7 3B, 11 HR, 4 SB, 9.9 BB%, 7.0 K%
Before we get into Franco’s scouting report, let’s take a look at his 2018 performance. And by performance, I mean total domination. Actually, I don’t even think total domination covers it. Franco recorded an extra-base hit once every 8.6 at-bats to go along with a pristine slash line en route to being named the Appalachian League player of the year. Not a bad start to your professional career.
Out of all the stats above, it’s his plate discipline that catches my eye first and foremost. In those 242 at-bats, Franco walked more than he struck out and only whiffed in 7.0% of his plate appearances. May I remind you that he was 17 for the entire season. Granted, it was 242 at-bats in the Appalachian Rookie League, but his numbers alone aren’t the reason why excitement around this kid is rising at astronomical rates. It’s because he’s a walking tool shed.
Hit Tool – 60/70
The first thing that you notice with Franco is the bat speed. So much bat speed. This isn’t just plus bat speed, folks, this is elite bat speed. The kind of bat speed you can’t even create in video games. Franco’s combination of lightning-quick wrists and direct swing path create that bat speed and allows him to barrel up pitches anywhere in the strike zone. Hard contact comes naturally off his bat from both sides of the plate. Yeah, that’s right. Franco is a switch-hitter and equally as dangerous from both sides of the plate.
Overall, Franco’s hit tool grades as a 70 with plenty of .300+ seasons likely in his future. Pitch recognition is also a strength for Franco. He’s able to barrel basically any pitch up but also lay off pitches out of the strike zone. With such an advanced hit tool and approach, you’d never guess that he was only 17 years old. The hand-eye coordination, plate approach, and bat to ball skills are truly elite.
— Prospects Live (@ProspectsLive) September 19, 2018
Power – 60/65
Alright, so we established that Franco has elite bat speed, contact skills, and plate coverage from both sides of the plate. Those are the foundation tools and he checks all those boxes with a permanent marker. Spoiler alert, the power is plus, too. Shocking, another plus tool.
There are several aspects that factor into a hitter’s power and Franco basically possesses them all. First, he loads well onto his back leg and keeps his hands back while using a moderate leg kick. You’ll have to pay close attention to what happens next or you’ll miss it entirely. In one smooth, lightning-quick motion, Franco’s front foot comes down, hips rotate, and his hands explode through the zone with a clean swing path that generates easy loft and hard contact to all fields. It’s truly a thing of beauty. Explosive, yet controlled.
I could watch the above swing on repeat all day. And maybe I have, but no judging. This is a judgment-free scouting report.
Franco might only be 5’10” but he has a strong frame and a swing geared for power. He’s still developing and getting stronger too, so it’s reasonable to expect even more power in the future than he’s currently showing, which is already a fair amount. Dare I say, 30-35 home runs annually when he reaches his peak physically?
Speed – 55/50
Do you want to find something that Franco isn’t insanely good at? Fine. He’s not a speedster on the bases. Now, don’t take that as me saying he’s slow because he’s far from it. I’m just saying don’t expect massive stolen base totals from him. That’s all. Franco stole just four bases in his 242 at-bats this season but does project for more steals than that, at least for now. Currently, Franco’s speed grades as above-average, and even if he loses a little speed as he fills out, he should still be an average runner with 10-15 stolen base upside.
Defense – 55 | Arm – 60
But what about his defense? We might not care much about defense in the fantasy world, but it does play a part in a player’s value. Obviously, playing at shortstop is more of a coo than playing in the outfield for fantasy owners. Plenty of prospects start their minor league careers at shortstop but end up moving off the position as they mature physically. It’s still early, obviously, but Franco has the tools to stay at shortstop moving forward. His footwork is solid and he’s shown above-average range and a strong throwing arm. His agility and strong arm should allow him to transition seamlessly if he needs to move to second or third base, but a move doesn’t appear to be in the immediate future.
— Peace, love, and dirty feet (@mufuhkajones) September 18, 2018
Overall/Future Value – 70
Plus or better tools as far as the eye can see, especially on offense. Franco truly has a chance to be one of the greatest offensive forces of the next decade or longer and a potential MVP candidate. Just keep in mind that he won’t be 18 until next March. As much as we love to drool over his potential, there’s still a long way to go before he reaches the Major Leagues. However, Franco is the type of advanced bat that could ascend to the Majors quicker than most. Expect him to move to up to Single-A in 2019.
Franco is already a top-10 dynasty prospect at age 17 and still on the rise. I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but it’s easy to envision Franco as the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball in short order. That is if the Blue Jays ever call up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. You’re going to need to pay a pretty penny to get Franco in dynasty leagues, but it’s worth it. Sit back and enjoy the ride with this kid. He’ll be terrorizing Major League pitchers before we know it.
Photo/Video Credit: Keith Law, Prospects Live, Jason Woodell.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB writer and prospect analyst here on FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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