Wander Franco Joins Illustrious Company As Two-Time No. 1 Prospect
No prospect is ever a sure thing, even those considered the very best.
That said, being ranked the No. 1 prospect two years in a row generally portends future stardom.
Wander Franco is the No. 1 prospect on Baseball America’s Top 100 for the second year in a row in 2021. He is just the fourth player to rank as the game’s top prospect in consecutive years. The others are Andruw Jones (1996-97), Joe Mauer (2004-05) and Bryce Harper (2011-12).
That trio has combined for 17 all-star selections, 13 Gold Glove Awards, nine Silver Sluggers and two Most Valuable Player Awards, with Harper still active and adding to the total.
Most No. 1 prospects reach the majors within a year of that ranking and graduate from prospect status. To rank as the No. 1 prospect two years in a row, you have to demonstrate extraordinary potential at a young age at the lowest levels.
Jones hit .277/.372/.512 with 25 home runs, 100 RBIs and 56 stolen bases at low Class A Macon in 1995 to vault to No. 1 prospect status before the 1996 season. He bounded all the way up to the majors that year, famously homering in his first two at-bats of the World Series as a 19-year-old, and remained the game’s top prospect entering the 1997 season before graduating.
Mauer is a somewhat of a unique case. The future three-time American League batting champion hit .338/.398/.434 as he climbed to Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2003, cementing himself as the game’s top prospect entering the 2004 season. Mauer made the Twins Opening Day roster in 2004 and was set to graduate from prospect status, but he tore his left medial meniscus in his second game and missed nearly two months. He returned in June, but pain and swelling in his knee forced him to end his season in July. He hit .308/.369/.570 in the majors even during his injury-shortened stint, and because he did not accumulate enough at-bats due to his injury, remained baseball’s top prospect entering the 2005 season.
Harper was drafted No, 1 overall in 2010 to enormous hype and ranked as the No. 1 prospect entering the 2011 season despite having not yet played an official game, although he did play in the Arizona Fall League after being drafted. He made good on his promise by batting .297/.392/.501 with 17 home runs, 58 RBIs and 26 stolen bases as he climbed to Double-A Harrisburg as an 18-year-old in his pro debut. That performance kept him as the game’s No. 1 prospect heading into 2012, and by late April he was in the majors and on his way to winning National League Rookie of the Year.
Franco, of course, may not still be a prospect if not for the coronavirus pandemic. The precocious switch-hitter hit .327/.398/.487 as he climbed to High-A as an 18-year-old and had a chance to begin the 2020 season at Double-A, putting him within striking distance of the majors. Instead, he remains a prospect heading into 2021, and remains baseball’s best. If he can perform like his forebears as a two-time No. 1 overall prospect, the Rays will have a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
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All-Time Baseball America No. 1 Prospects
2021: Wander Franco, SS, Rays
2020: Wander Franco, SS, Rays
2019: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays
2018: Ronald Acuña, OF, Braves
2017: Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox
2016: Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
2015: Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs
2014: Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
2013: Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers
2012: Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
2011: Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
2010: Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
2009: Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
2008: Jay Bruce, OF, Reds
2007: Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP, Red Sox
2006: Delmon Young, OF, Rays
2005: Joe Mauer, C, Twins
2004: Joe Mauer, C, Twins
2003: Mark Teixeira, 3B, Rangers
2002: Josh Beckett, RHP, Marlins
2001: Josh Hamilton, OF, Rays
2000: Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals
1999: J.D. Drew, OF, Cardinals
1998: Ben Grieve, OF, Athletics
1997: Andruw Jones, OF, Braves
1996: Andruw Jones, OF, Braves
1995: Alex Rodriguez, SS, Mariners
1994: Cliff Floyd, OF, Expos
1993: Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves
1992: Brien Taylor, LHP, Yankees
1991: Todd Van Poppel, RHP, Athletics
1990: Steve Avery, LHP, Braves