When the Rays' Wander Franco was promoted from the Midwest League to the Florida State League, he became the first player born in 2001 to appear in any of the three Class A Advanced circuits this season. He sure isn't playing like it.Baseball's top overall prospect has been named the
When the Rays' Wander Franco was promoted from the Midwest League to the Florida State League, he became the first player born in 2001 to appear in any of the three Class A Advanced circuits this season. He sure isn't playing like it.
Baseball's top overall prospect has been named the FSL Offensive Player of the Week for June 24-30 after going 10-for-18 (.556) with two homers, a double and six RBIs in his first five games with Charlotte. This is Franco's second Player of the Week award of the season -- he also won April 29 with Class A Bowling Green -- and the fourth of his two-season Minor League career.
The 18-year-old, switch-hitting shortstop -- who was selected for the Futures Game on Friday -- was promoted from Bowling Green on Tuesday after hitting .318/.390/.506 with six homers and 14 stolen bases over 62 games in an All-Star turn and didn't take long to show that impressive bat in the Charlotte lineup. Franco went 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in his Stone Crabs debut Tuesday and ended up notching multiple hits in each of his first four games with the club. His first Class A Advanced homer came Thursday when he took Fort Myers starter Blayne Enlow deep for a two-run shot in the fifth inning of a 2-1 win, and he homered again the next day in the series opener at Palm Beach, showing his impressive power for a player listed at 5-foot-10, 189 pounds.
• View the Pitchers of the Week winners »
"Both homers weren't just over the fence either; they were bombs," said Charlotte manager Jeff Smith. "One thing that makes that stand out is the fact he has lightning-quick hands. He sees the ball in his spot, and then those lightning-quick hands take over. He adds in good control of his lower half, and the whole thing plays for power."
Franco's .556 average, .609 on-base percentage, .944 slugging percentage and 1.553 OPS last were all tops among Class A Advanced hitters for the period of June 24-30. After striking out in only 7.4 percent of his Class A plate appearances (and walking in 11 percent), Franco also didn't get punched out at all in his first five games with the Stone Crabs. His 23 plate appearances are the most by a Class A Advanced hitter without a strikeout this season.
"Even going back to Spring Training I knew about this, but when we found out we were getting him, the thing I found most impressive was that he had more walks than strikeouts in the Midwest League," Smith said. "He has this ability to slow the ball down at the plate and take advantage of his advanced knowledge of the strike zone. You'll see a lot of guys throw 94-95 here, and with their tempo and mechanics, it can appear faster. With Franco, he has control of the bat and the strike zone to the point where the ball actually looks slower when he's up there."
That all plays into the scouting report that has made the Dominican Republic native the top overall prospect two years after he signed for $3.825 million. MLB.com gave Franco's hit tool a plus-plus grade, while his run, power and arm tools are all considered above-average to plus. Franco's defense at shortstop is the only tool considered average, but Smith said even his glove has stood out in the first week. With the whole package, it didn't take long for the phenom to stand out in the Sunshine State.
"He obviously comes with a lot of accolades and honors and all that, but when you watch him, all you know is he loves to play the game," he said. "But there are times when we all have to step back and think, 'Man, he's our teammate.'"
Below is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for June 24-30 (except Southern League, which is from June 20-30).
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.