The next international free agent signing period will not begin until July 2, but that does not mean speculation will wait. Indeed, that speculation has already begun, with the Tampa Bay Rays listed as the favorite for top prospect Wander Franco.
With the new rules governing international free agents, and the hard cap in place for those signings, it is expected that smaller market teams will thrive under the new agreement. Indeed, those teams classified as smaller market, or low revenue, teams will have more money to spend on the international market then the larger market teams will. In this case, a team like the Tampa Bay Rays should have an advantage.
If the early rumblings prove to be correct, then the Rays are certainly taking advantage of it. They are currently listed as the favorite for the services of Wander Franco, a 16 year old switch hitting shortstop who is considered the top international free agent on the market. Speculation is that Franco will end up signing for a bonus worth just under $4 Million once the next signing period begins.
If the name sounds familiar, that is due to his solid bloodlines and similarly named relatives. His father was a professional ballplayer, and his two brothers, also named Wander, are currently plying their trade in the minors, with the Royals and Astros respectively. His uncle, Erick Aybar, has put together a solid major league career in his own right.
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Even if those bloodlines are ignored, this Wander Franco is an impressive prospect in his own right. He is considered the top international prospect by MLB.com, which sites his smooth hands and excellent swing as his calling cards.
Yet, Franco is more than that. As a switch hitter, he is considered to have a polished approach on both sides of the plate, with solid strike zone awareness and an advanced idea at the plate. His speed has led some to believe that Franco could be a possible top of the lineup player, with those bat skills potentially playing up in either a leadoff or second spot in the lineup. While he is solid defensively, there are questions about whether or not Franco will stick at short, as his arm is considered better suited for second base.
Even with those possible drawbacks, it is apparent that the scouting community at large feels strongly about Franco’s future. His obvious tools, excellent approach, and solid family ties have made Franco the top international prospect, and would be quite the signing for Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay Rays are expected to sign Wander Franco, the top international prospect, when the next signing period begins. The new collective bargaining agreement is already working out in their favor.