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Wander Franco Dominating The Midwest League, Already

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Wander Franco (Dan Arnold)

Last year, when Wander Franco was a 17-year-old, a scout suggested seriously that he was ready for at least high Class A.

Less than a month into the 2019 season, it’s reasonable to wonder if the best prospect still playing in the minors has proven he’s too good for the low Class A Midwest League.

Franco continued his incredible tear on Thursday by hitting a pair of home runs and a single. In his past three games, he is 7-for-9 with three home runs, three doubles, three walks, a hit by pitch and a sacrifice fly. Franco is now hitting .333/.420/.621, and he leads the Midwest League with 11 extra-base hits. The 5-foot-10, 189-pound shortstop is fifth in the league with 41 total bases, and he ranks fourth in the league in slugging percentage (.621), sixth in OPS (1.041) and sixth in hits (22). The 18-year-old is also the youngest player in the league by a significant margin.

But those stats don’t really explain how in control Franco is at the plate. This may explain it better. Since April 20, he has nine hits, including those five extra-base hits. Over that stretch he has swung the bat 25 times. He’s swung and missed once. In those 22 plate appearances, he hasn't struck out. Pitchers have managed to get two strikes on him only three times in those 22 plate appearances. 

Franco simply does not swing and miss. He will take a strike. He will foul a ball off. But when he decides to swing, his hand-eye coordination is exceptional, and he very rarely misses the ball completely.

On Opening Day, Franco swung and missed three times in 11 swings. Blame that on Opening Day jitters. Because since then, he’s swung and missed only four times in nearly four weeks—a stretch covering 70 at-bats. Franco not only hasn’t had an at-bat where he swung and missed twice since Opening Day, he hasn’t had a game where he swung and missed twice. Already this season, he’s had a 19 at-bat stretch where he didn’t swing-and-miss as well as another 20 at-bat streak without swinging and missing.

And that’s not because Franco is hitting the first pitch he sees. Normally, he’s facing pitchers who are nibbling in respect to his hitting ability and power. While pitchers normally throw strikes on roughly 60 percent of their offerings, pitchers have thrown strikes to Franco only 49 percent of the time. But with an excellent batting eye and those rare bat-to-ball skills, Franco rarely is induced to chase.

Franco is currently our No. 4 prospect in the game. The top three (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jimenez) are all now major leaguers. As soon as they graduate, Franco will ascend to the top spot on our Top 100 Prospects list. He's showing he deserves the honor.

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Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Top 30 MLB Prospects Midseason Update

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