Franco hustles way to three-double day

Top Rays prospect raises his average to .300 with 3-for-3 effort

Wander Franco has reached in 15 of 16 games to start the season in the Midwest League. (Bowling Green Hot Rods)

By Chris Bumbaca / | April 23, 2019 8:31 PM

It was only a matter of time before Wander Franco started running roughshod over the Midwest League. 

Tampa Bay's top prospect reached in all five plate appearances Tuesday with a trio of doubles and one walk as Class A Bowling Green fell to Fort Wayne, 8-7, at Parkview Field. 

Franco's big afternoon extended his hitting streak to nine games. He's batting .300/.389/.467 on the season after a slow start, which gave way to a hot streak over the last week.

Video: Hot Rods' Franco hits third double's No. 12 overall prospect began his afternoon by drawing a walk against Ramon Perez in the first inning and was plunked by the left-hander in the third. He led off the fifth against Perez with a double into the gap in left-center field. Two innings later, Franco popped a 3-2 offering from righty Henry Henry high in the air. No one in the TinCaps infield was able to track the ball, and as it hit the dirt, the 18-year-old pulled into second standing up.

With one out and one on, Franco skied another ball, this time to shallow center. Jawuan Harris lost the ball in the sun, and the shortstop again hustled into with his sixth two-bagger of the year.

Entering Tuesday, the switch-hitter had never doubled more than once in a game. While he's tripled twice this year, Franco has yet to leave the yard.

Gameday box score

The native of the Dominican Republic was batting .200 one week into the season, but since has looked more like the player who broke out in 2018. Last season, his first in the Minor Leagues, Franco put on a show with Rookie Advanced Princeton. Over 61 games, he batted .351/.418/.587 with 28 extra-base hits (including 11 home runs), and struck out 19 times in 242 at-bats as a 17-year-old. He was a two-time Player of the Week in the Appalachian League and was named an Organizational All-Star. 

2019 MiLB include

"When you're 17 and an MVP of a league, it says a lot about you and your skill," Rays director of Minor League operations Mitch Lukevics told in December. "This kid is the total package and at that age, he's so much more mature than he has any right to be, which is key. He signed with us and had all the physical tools but what was most amazing was his level of maturity. If the mental doesn't equal the physical, it generally will short circuit a player at some point. We don't have anything to worry about in that respect with Wander. Man, what a player."

This year, Tampa Bay assistant director of Minor League operations Jeff McLerran emphasized the importance of the shortstop finding consistency in his game, and that the Rays were looking forward to him to "sharpen up the finer points of his game."

"We never want to put limits on anybody," he told last month.

Chris Bumbaca is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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