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Tampa Bay Rays: MLB should market Wander Franco like a teen LeBron James

By Seth Carter
US basketball phenomenon LeBron James' mother Gloria shows her support during her son's high school St. Vincent-St. Mary's game against Mater Dei, in Los Angeles, CA, 04 January 2003. St. Vincent-St. Mary won 64-58 with James scoring 21 points. James, 17, is expected to be the number one pick in the NBA draft this spring, following Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant in entering the NBA from high school. AFP PHOTO/Lucy Nicholson (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
US basketball phenomenon LeBron James' mother Gloria shows her support during her son's high school St. Vincent-St. Mary's game against Mater Dei, in Los Angeles, CA, 04 January 2003. St. Vincent-St. Mary won 64-58 with James scoring 21 points. James, 17, is expected to be the number one pick in the NBA draft this spring, following Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant in entering the NBA from high school. AFP PHOTO/Lucy Nicholson (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images) /
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CLEVELAND, OH – JULY 07: Wander Franco #40 of the American League Futures Team, 2019 (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Rays’ have the consensus top-rated prospect in all of baseball. He’s a teenage phenom, he’s a future star in the sport, he’s like the LeBron James of baseball…and you can’t watch his debut on TV.

Tampa Bay Rays‘ phenom and top-rated prospect, Wander Franco, is set to make his debut in spring training today. Willy Adames is scheduled to start the game at shortstop and his relief will come in the form of the 18-year-old who sits atop of pretty much every credible prospect rankings list.

Franco has taken professional baseball by storm. He entered the Appalachian League in 2018 at the age of 17 and cruised to a .351 average, .418 on-base percentage, and a .587 slugging. In his 61 games in Rookie Ball, he hit 10 homers, 11 doubles, and seven triples. He also took 27 walks in just 273 plate appearances while striking out only 19 times. Did I mention that he was seventeen?

Last season, at age 18, he was the recipient of Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year Award.

In 175 professional games, he has more extra-base hits (71) and walks (83) than strikeouts (54). His career OPS sits at .928. Have I mentioned that he’s still only 18 years old?

Spring Debut

He’s destined for superstardom and he’ll be making his debut in a split-squad game against the Detroit Tigers in Port Charlotte without a team of national broadcasters and analysts there to bring the momentous occasion into the homes of baseball fans around the nation.

The game will not be broadcast by either the Rays or the Tigers’ local stations.

In fact, as of less than two hours before game time, I can still get tickets behind home plate for $22. There should be more demand to see a kid with this kind of talent.

Why isn’t the MLB properly marketing this phenom who is in their employ? What if Wander Franco was a high school basketball player?

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