In a season filled with adjustments, another one was no problem for Wander Franco.
The fourth-ranked Rays prospect made his debut in the cleanup spot on Tuesday night, collected three hits, including a homer and a double, and drove in five runs to lead a season-high 19-hit attack as Rookie-level Princeton rolled past Pulaski, 13-4, at Hunnicutt Field.
Gameday box score
After losing a player to a promotion, there was a gap in the middle of his lineup and manager Danny Sheaffer decided to give the 17-year-old a crack at it.
"We put Wander in the four-hole because we lost our fourth hitter to an advancement," the skipper said. "Wander answered the call pretty strong with his home run. He was a triple shy of the cycle and it would have been his second one this summer."
Franco hit for the cycle on July 14, establishing a career high with six RBIs.
"The kid is very talented," Sheaffer said. "I can't pick out anything mechanical that's working for him. He finds the barrel of the bat and is very strong, especially for 17 years old. He has an advanced approach at the plate and really doesn't chase a lot of pitches. Just as impressive as his at-bats are the plays he's making in the field. He brings it on both sides of the ball."
MLB.com's No. 40 overall prospect began his latest big night in the second inning when he singled to left field off starter Daniel Bies (1-1) to score Jake Palomaki. In the third, he mashed his eighth homer of the season, a two-run shot off right-hander Wellington Caceres that plated Connor Hollis, who led off with a double.
After drawing a walk in the fourth, Franco doubled to left in the seventh off another righty, Bryan Blanton, to score Hollis and Jonathan Aranda and give the Rays an 11-3 lead.
Franco is 9-for-22 (.409) with eight RBIs during a five-game hitting streak that's boosted his slash line to .356/.406/.613. The teenage shortstop leads the Appalachian League with 58 hits and 100 total bases, ranks second with six triples, third in batting and RBIs (40) and fifth in extra-base hits (20) and slugging percentage.
While Franco looks nearly flawless at the plate, he continues to make strides in all areas of his game.
"He's not happy making any errors at all," said Sheaffer, who spent seven seasons in the big leagues. "They're going to happen, even to the best shortstops in the game. I think his defensive game is way above 17 years old right now, but he's still not happy with it.
"He has some weapons that he hasn't used yet. He's a very good bunter, he's a good baserunner. I don't think bunting is something we're going to have to worry about in the Minor Leagues. I can't pick out one or two things that he needs to work on, his whole game is really good, but his whole game could also use improvement."
Palomaki finished with four hits, three runs scored and an RBI out of the leadoff spot, while Tony Pena chipped in two hits and two RBIs and Aranda doubled, singled, scored twice and drove in two runs for Princeton. Rays starter Edisson Gonzalez struck out seven over three innings in his Appy League debut, allowing an unearned run on one hit and one walk.
Mickey Gasper and Nelson Gomez smacked solo homers for the Yankees.