The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays battle it out for first place in the American League East starting Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. The series has some added weight for the Rays: they’ve called up top prospect Wander Franco just in time for the pivotal series.
Franco isn’t just the top prospect for the Rays; he’s been the best prospect in baseball for two years running. He was the top international free-agent signing in 2017-18, then made his first appearance on Baseball America’s annual preseason top-100 prospect list at No. 96. He rocketed up to No. 4 in 2019, then No. 1 in 2020 and 2021.
Based on his scouting report at MLB.com, Franco is the best baseball prospect to come along in years, mainly because of his offensive skills. A switch-hitter, Franco has high-end bat speed and makes consistent contact, and also boasts plus raw power. His advanced approach at the plate could make him a dangerous major-league hitter right out of the chute.
The scouting report says that Franco, currently a shortstop, may eventually move to second base or third base. But his athleticism should allow him to develop into a good fielder wherever he ends up playing.
Franco had been lighting up Triple-A so far in 2021, with a .954 OPS and 24 extra-base hits in 39 games for the Durham Bulls. He’s widely expected to make his major league debut in the Rays lineup on Tuesday. Eduardo Rodriguez will take the mound for Boston against Tampa Bay’s Andrew Kittredge.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, have a top prospect of their own who is raking in Triple-A. Outfielder Jarren Duran has a 1.006 OPS in 30 games for Triple-A Worcester and has hit 12 home runs, which is tied for the third-most in the minor leagues.
Offense isn’t exactly a need for the Red Sox at the moment. The Rays, on the other hand, have lost six in a row while averaging only 3.33 runs per game during the cold streak. So they needed a spark, which they hope to get with the Franco call-up.
The three-game series between the Rays and Red Sox begins Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET in St. Petersburg. Boston (43-29) enters the series a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.