Been hearing mostly conservative takes about Wander Franco the past couple days, but can we just set the hedging aside for a moment and ponder Wander’s potential?
When an incomparable player comes along, like Shohei Ohtani for instance, the tried and true path of downplaying possibilities and leaning into what’s come before just falls short.
Wander Franco can exceed our imaginations, especially those of the people predicting the worst because it’s typically the right way to play it when a prospect comes up. We might forget that Mike Trout slashed .326/.399/.564 with 30 HR and 49 SB as a rookie. People often site his previous season, where 135 plate appearances as a 19-year-old didn’t pan out great: .220/.281/.390. 19-year-old.
I’ve often mentioned Trout in discussing Wander because he’s a player with few physical comps, and Mike Trout left a powerful impression on me the first time I saw him in Cedar Rapids. I saw him play a lot there that year, making my escape for 380 South every chance I got. Even badgered my wife to join me for one, as I would later do again when Byron Buxton suited up in CR.
I didn’t get down to see Wander the one time he came through my corner of the flyover. I’d helped organized a home league trip that fell apart last second, and I didn’t wind up going. Still, I’ve seen him play on MiLB.tv a lot more than I saw those guys in person, and I feel confident saying we haven’t really seen his type. He is unique among all the prospects I’ve watched.
I’ve heard .265 with 6 home runs and 4 stolen bases. That’s not happening.
We heard on the Razzball podcast, The Wander Years, that it could be about .305 with 13 homers and a handful of steals. That sounds plausible.
One factor that’s tough to build into the Wanderlust is he’s rarely (if ever) seriously studied his opponents. It’s just not feasible on the minor league schedule. The six-game series setups this year have created the first genuine chance for intraleague familiarity among competitors. In Tampa, Franco will have all the hitting resources he can imagine and several he hasn’t even considered. When a prospect plays better as a rookie than he ever had in the minors, this homework-based edge is one of the primary drivers of that leap. Wander is a worker.
The only outcome that would surprise me is failure because this guy has never failed. More likely he hits .350 with 20 homers and ends up back in Durham. I’d also be surprised if he ran a whole lot. That’s gonna take time. He’s gonna hit even without a lot of high-level reps, but base running against elite players is a different learning curve entirely, and his Olympus-level hand-eye coordination doesn’t help him there. I don’t care though. I don’t have Wander for the steals in 2021. Wish I had him in more leagues, but I do have him in that home league, which has ten hitting categories and rewards extreme plate skills. Michael Brantley is a mainstay in the top 20 overall finishers. Wander will soon join him. Which means he’ll soon be leaving Prospect World forever.
So who’s the number one prospect now, or next, we should say, after Wander’s truly gone from the prospect list collective? Who’s the king of the mountain on Day One A.W.?Please, blog, may I have some more?