The Wander Franco era in Tampa is officially underway.
Franco, the number one prospect in MLB, finally made it to the big show last night, and he was Wanderful in his debut.
With the Rays trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Franco hit a three-run homer off Eduardo Rodriguez to tie the game at five.
Franco finished the game two for four with one homer and three RBI’s. Franco had a double in his other at-bat and started the game at third base for the Rays.
According to Kevin Cash, Franco will play at third, short, and second base. The Rays will use Yandy Diaz to platoon at first base with Ji-Man Choi when he is not playing third.
Franco said he knew that he was going to homer in that at-bat in the fifth inning.
“In that at-bat, I actually knew I was going to hit a home run because that was the pitch I was looking for. I ended up getting the pitch that I was looking for, and I was able to help the team out.”
Franco batted second in the batting order, which seems it would only put additional pressure on Franco. However, that was not the case, according to Kevin Cash. “We’re all about keeping guys comfortable, and he’s never hit past third as far as I know, so we’re going to keep him up there.”
Rays fans have been chomping at the bit to see Franco in Tampa for two years. So what took Franco so long to reach the big leagues?
Keep in mind that Franco is just 20 years old. Many of his contemporaries are still working their way through rookie and class A Ball.
Rays scouting director Jeff McLerran talked about the areas that the team needed to see some growth in to promote Franco to the big leagues.
“I think it’s in that off-field side is where we’ve seen the most growth over the last couple of months, how he handles his business and how he is with his teammates. We’ve grown a lot more comfortable with how he’s able to handle the big leagues from that standpoint that made now the right time.”
Offensively, Franco has been ready for the big leagues for some time, it was the off-field issues that Franco needed some growth in, and in the first three months of the baseball season, Franco has checked that final box and is now in Tampa.
In 177 at-bats at Durham, Franco was hitting .315 with seven homers and 35 runs batted in, with a .954 slugging percentage.
The offensively challenged Rays can sure use Franco’s bat in their lineup. These numbers would have Franco leading the Rays in batting average and slugging percentage. In addition, Franco would be fourth on the team in RBI’s.
Franco may still have some maturing to do as a 20-year-old. But the Rays feel that he is ready to help the team win some games and make a deep playoff run.
With the addition of Franco to the active MLB roster, the Rays now have seven rookies on the roster. Franco, Taylor Walls, Randy Arozarena, Ryan Thompson, Shane McClanahan, Josh Fleming, and J.P. Feyereisen
The Wander Franco era is underway in Tampa. For one night, it was magical. Will it continue? Stay tuned.