Shortstop Wander Franco hoped to make it to the big leagues in 2020 so he could have the distinction of playing in the majors as a teenager.
That didn’t happen, and with Franco turning 20 on March 1, the Rays want to make sure he earns his callup to Tampa Bay.
Rays general manager Erik Neander wants to be sure Franco, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, is ready to handle the expectations and challenges that he will face, and to be successful after doing so.
Having Franco play in the Dominican League this winter will help that process.
“You want to make sure that you do everything possible to help him mature physically, emotionally, mentally,” Neander said, “to be best positioned to take on all the expectations that are going to be with him.’’
Among the tangible things Neander wants to continue to see from the switch-hitter were to preserve his “day-in, day-out routines (and) the way he takes care of himself.”
Having spent summer camp and the abbreviated season at the Rays’ alternate training site before joining the postseason taxi squad, Franco got plenty of work but little game action.
Since finishing the 2019 season at high Class A Charlotte, Franco played six games in the Dominican League, three big league spring training games and a handful of simulated games at the Port Charlotte, Fla., alt site.
That will be addressed when he joins Escogido for the start of the winter season.
The Rays feel good about the experience Franco had traveling with the big league team in October rather than attending instructional league.
“The chance to see what it takes to make it within two wins of the World Series title is impossible to replicate from the outside,” Rays vice president of player development and international scouting Carlos Rodriguez said . . .
“They also got to see up close how fun winning baseball can be. The lessons learned from that experience is only going to make them better players down the road and provide the continued motivation to keep working toward winning a (World Series) championship.”
— The amount of time Franco spends in the Dominican League is to be determined. How long he stays, whether for a month or longer will be determined as they go, based on more than just his statistics.
— Manager Kevin Cash was one of the three finalists for the American League Manager of the Year award. He was the Rays’ only representative for any of the major postseason awards. No Rays players finished in the top three for MVP, Cy Young Award or Rookie of the Year, nor were any finalists for the AL Gold Gloves.