After taking three high school arms in a row early in the draft, we knew the Tampa Bay Rays would likely have to take a discount player/players to ensure they get all their high schoolers signed. They are hoping to receive a discount with their 7th round pick, as they took Mike Franco, a college right-handed pitcher from Florida International. However, Franco does not come without skill.
Ranked 431st on Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects, Franco has seen his fair share of ups and downs as a college pitcher. He spent two years at Howard Junior College, being named NJCAA most valuable pitcher in 2011, but undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing 2012. He then had a rocky first year at Florida International in 2013, but this year everything finally clicked. He would post a 1.09 ERA, 10.2 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 as a 4th year junior.
Despite the stellar performance, Franco’s overall stuff is underwhelming. His fastball sits around 88-92, though he can dial it up to 95 MPH on rare occasions. At 5’11”, 200 pounds he has no projection and will have to watch his conditioning in the future. His changeup is currently an average pitch. He also throws a breaking ball that flashes average potential, but it is an inconsistent pitch for now. What he lacks in stuff he makes up for in deception. He hides the ball well behind his head, which causes his stuff to play up a bit. He also made vast improvement with throwing quality strikes this year. At most he is a back-end starter or middle reliever, but it will be interesting to see how his deception holds up against better competition.