Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco made a huge impression on the day of his MLB debut.
That night, he went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, a home run, two runs, and three RBI.
The world was on notice: Franco was a special prospect, and he had all the looks of an elite major leaguer.
Then, after that game, he went through a slump.
He didn’t have a hit in four games, a span that covered 18 plate appearances.
After just five games, he was already being questioned by some impatient fans.
After that point, he really took off: .289/.344/.452 with five homers.
A Very Solid Season
For the season as a whole, Franco has a .273/.336/.440 line with six home runs and a 117 wRC+.
The wRC+ stat means weighted Runs Created Plus, an offensive metric that considers every outcome achieved by the player and determines whether he has been an above or below-average performer.
In this case, it means that Franco has been 17 percent better than his peers, which is good.
However, we all know that he has the potential to be great.
The important takeaway here is that Franco is getting better as the season goes on.
Right now, he is working on a .316/.389/.504 slash line in his last 30 games, with three homers and 23 RBI.
That’s precisely the kind of production we can expect from Franco from now on: a .315 bat with around 20 or 25 home runs per season.
To that, we should add that he is very fast, even though he still has no stolen bases in MLB this year; and his more than capable glove at shortstop.
Wander Franco's arm 😯 pic.twitter.com/6ORnvtcosg
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 24, 2021
What makes him really special, however, is not his power or his sweet swing designed to hit no lower than .300: it’s his judgment of the strike zone.
The 20-year-old infielder (yes, he is not even old enough to do a lot of stuff depending on location) has an elite 14.3 strikeout percentage, and he has coupled it with a solid 8.0 walk rate.
Franco Has Really Improved The Rays
He is an extremely tough out, and has really improved the Rays’ lineup ever since he got the call.
Tampa Bay was 47-31 when they called up Franco, with a slight 0.5 game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
After giving him the call and adding him to the roster, they are 37-17, and have an eight-game lead over the New York Yankees in the division.
Sure, the Rays are a good team with or without Franco.
However, he provides a noticeable jump in both offense and defense, one that the Rays will surely need in the postseason.
If we are going to nitpick, we could say he can hit for a bit more power, but it will eventually come.
Even if it doesn’t, Franco is still a very, very good hitter at 20 years old.
If we had to grade his season so far, we would assign him a solid A-.
That grade indicates some minor things to improve, but an excellent performance nonetheless.
The fact that he is so good at such a young age is nothing short of amazing.
Wander Franco has now reached base safely in 29 straight games, the 2nd-longest streak in AL history by a player under the age of 21.
Only Mickey Mantle has a longer streak (36 straight from 1951-52). pic.twitter.com/0HdynpUiyQ
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 29, 2021
Tampa has a great one to build around.NEXT: 3 Reasons Rays Are Truly The Best Team In Baseball