Tampa Bay Rays: How Wander Franco fits in 2020 plans
By Seth Carter
The Tampa Bay Rays have announced their 60-man player pool and lo and behold, Wander Franco is on it. How does the top prospect fit into the 2020 plans?
The Tampa Bay Rays have issued list of players for the 60-man player pool. Now they report to camp and complete the Opening Day 30-man roster.
The rules of the 40-man roster still apply this season, so don’t expect to see Wander Franco on the Opening Day squad. It’d be a foolish move to open the season with the youngster who has not even played in Double-A yet.
Just to be clear, that would cost the team a whole year club control. It’s not happening. However, Franco will be able to work out with major-league quality talent by being named to the 60-man list.
In the event of injuries, illness, or overwhelming team confidence, there’s a chance he could be promoted later in the season. It’s hard to guess, and I would say unlikely to happen, nonetheless, ’tis fun to imagine.
What would it look like with Franco in the bigs down the stretch? Here are a few scenarios.
Franco’s current position is shortstop but the Rays have one of the better defensive shortstops in the league in Willy Adames. Additionally, at the age of 24, Adames has flashed a potentially high ceiling with the bat. It’s highly possible that Franco replaces the platoon, or fits into somehow, at third base. This is especially likely if Yandy Diaz struggles this season in the second phase of changing his approach at the plate.
Another possibility is Franco finds time filling in all over the infield in traditional Rays’ utility fashion. Earlier this year (during the first spring training) the Rays mentioned something about seeing Brandon Lowe spend more time in the outfield.
If they get comfortable with Brandon Lowe roaming the grass, then that would open up more space for Wander Franco to find playing time in the infield.
I want to say that they could play the matchups with Franco, but so far he’s matchup proof. The switch-hitting 19-year-old slashed .336/.404/.517 against RHP and .293/.375/.380 against LHP. Sure, he didn’t quite have the power against lefties last season but his on-base ability was still phenomenal.
Where would you hit him in the lineup? Do they start him in the bottom half of the lineup to alleviate some pressure at first and then gradually move him up? His incredible approach at the plate lends itself to a one or two-hitter in this lineup.
Franco walked 21 more times than he struck out last season. He didn’t have his first back-to-back games without reaching base until the 97th and 98th games of the season, which happened to be a double-header against the Bradenton Mauraders… That was the only two-game stretch of the sort for the season.
Again, it may not happen this season… but he’s coming.