When Wander Franco is an option, let Wander Franco play. That's what his native country intends to do later this month.MLB.com's top overall prospect has been granted permission by the Rays to compete for the Dominican Republic in the Olympic baseball qualifiers from March 22-26 in Arizona, according to reports
When Wander Franco is an option, let Wander Franco play. That's what his native country intends to do later this month.
MLB.com's top overall prospect has been granted permission by the Rays to compete for the Dominican Republic in the Olympic baseball qualifiers from March 22-26 in Arizona, according to reports by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin and ESPN's Jeff Passan.
The Dominican Republic is matched up with the United States, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua in group play of the Americas Qualifier with Cuba, Venezuela, Canada and Colombia making up the other group. After each team plays each other once in group play, the top two finishers from each section advance to the Super Round, where those four squads will each play two games. The team with the best Super Round record captures the automatic bid for the Olympics while the second- and third-place squads will move on to the Final Qualifier to be held in Taiwan in June.
Japan, Korea, Mexico and Israel have already qualified for the 2020 Games to be held in Tokyo.
Franco has climbed to the top of MLB.com's prospect list less than three years after signing for $3.825 million out of the Dominican Republic. The switch-hitting shortstop features an elite hit tool and is coming off an age-18 season in which he hit .327/.398/.487 with nine homers and 18 stolen bases over 114 games between Class A Bowling Green and Class A Advanced Charlotte. His ratio of 1.6 BB/K was second-best among the 686 Minor Leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances in 2019, and he swung and missed at only 4.3 percent of the pitches he saw -- 10th-best in that group.
Franco also earns plus grades for his power potential and arm, and his speed is considered above-average. He may ultimately have to move off shortstop, but his offensive prowess is such that he should provide value at second or third base as well.
Franco turned 19 on Sunday and did not receive a non-roster invite to Major League camp this spring, likely easing Tampa Bay's decision to allow him to compete in the qualifier. He is 1-for-5 with a strikeout and a run scored in limited Grapefruit League play.
According to Passan, No. 82 overall prospect Geraldo Perdomo is also expected to compete for the Dominican Republic. The 20-year-old switch-hitter batted .275/.397/.364 with three homers and 26 steals over 116 games between Class A and Class A Advanced in the D-backs system last season. Also a shortstop, Perdomo is a more gifted fielder than Franco, though unlike his teammate he has second-base experience in the Minors.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.