Ever since the Tampa Bay Rays traded infielder Willy Adames to the Milwaukee Brewers in May, the corresponding move seemed in the cards. Now, that move looks set to occur.
The Rays are expected to call up Wander Franco, the No. 1 prospect in baseball the past two years, to the big-league squad on Tuesday for Tampa Bay’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox, the team announced Sunday.
Franco, a switch-hitting infielder, is primarily a shortstop. But he’s played seven games at third base and three at second base in addition to his 28 starts at shortstop this season for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Franco has also started the season on a tear at the plate, hitting .315 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs in 162 at-bats for the Bulls.
Franco is arriving at a time when Tampa Bay is teetering. The club led the American League East for much of the season, but nine pitchers have landed on the 60-day injured list — the latest of whom is ace Tyler Glasnow.
The offense has cooled off considerably, too, hitting .229 with the second-worst strikeout rate in the majors (27.2%). Franco’s bat could add pop and average to that lineup, and the 20-year-old has long felt ready for this moment.
“Of course, I’m ready to play in the big leagues,” Franco, who was born in the Dominican Republic, said through a team interpreter in February (via MLB.com). “I’m ready to achieve the goal that I’ve been trying to achieve since I was a little kid, to make it up to the big leagues.”
Now, his goal is attainable, likely to come Tuesday as he acts as a sparkplug for a team on a six-game losing streak. Franco will be the first No. 1 prospect to make his debut since Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in April 2019. And now Guerrero Jr. is lighting up the majors — hitting .337 with 23 homers.
Guerrero and Franco are different types of players, but Tampa Bay wouldn’t mind a similar big impact from a high-potential player.