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Wander Franco

WanderVision: Wander Franco is must-see TV for Rays, MLB

  • Manuel Gómez - East Coast Contributor & Podcast Director Manuel Gómez, East Coast Contributor & Podcast Director
  • June 22, 2021

As Tampa Bay Rays prodigy Wander Franco prepares for debut, third base coach Rodney Linares offers some advice.

Six years before prodigy Wander Franco finally got his call to the majors, his new Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Rodney Linares groomed another top Latin American prospect on the way to prominence.

Linares has seen this type of hype before. He know the expectations that await a prospect like Franco.

Linares managed Carlos Correa at Class AA in 2015, the year the Puerto Rican shortstop became the American League Rookie of the Year. So Linares is perfectly suited to give some advice for Wander Franco as he prepares to make his nig League debut:

“Be Wander,” Linares said. “Don’t try to be anything but you.”

After three years of waiting, the Tampa Bay Rays finally called Franco up. The 20-year-old Dominican switch hitter is the most highly anticipated international prospect since Japan’s Shohei Ohtani.

Franco, who was signed during the 2017-2018 international signing period, came in as the second ranked prospect. Since then, he has lit up the Minors, ranking as a top-10 rookie since 2019 and the No. 1 prospect since 2020.

In three Minor League seasons, Franco posted a .332 AVG and a .933 OPS. He has also shown improvement at every level, especially in his most glaring area of weakness: power.

In 2019, Franco hit nine home runs in 495 plate appearances in Class A (full) and Class A (advanced). That’s good for a home run in every 55 plate appearances. In Class AAA this season, he hit seven homers in 77 appearances, which accounts for about one home run in every 25 plate appearances.

Wander Franco arrives 

Many expected to see the switch-hitting Dominican much sooner. He teased a possible debut during the 2020 World Series but never actually made an appearance. Then, an impressive Spring Training, which saw him hit one of the longest home runs ever also got folks talking. 

Ultimately, nothing came out of it.

The real chatter began when long-time Rays shortstop Willy Adames was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in late May. At the time, Tampa opted to call up their No. 7 ranked infielder Tyler Walls instead.

In the meantime, Franco split time between shortstop, second base, and third base while in Durham.

Now, the wait is really over.

You would expect there to be some jitters going into tonight’s game. Fortunately, Franco has teammates and coaches well-versed in overcoming these kinds of nerves.

“There is no pressure,” Linares advises Franco. “Just remember, don’t take life so seriously, no one gets out alive.”

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