Major League Baseball’s No.1 prospect Wander Franco makes his expected big-league debut for the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night as they face the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of a series hinge of three matches. The Rays, losers of six straight games, started a half-game behind the Red Sox on Tuesday in the American League East race.
Franco, for his part, will be asked to carry a heavy load out of the gate. He plays third base and hits second in order from Tampa Bay. It might seem like a noble task for a 20-year-old rookie, but Rays manager Kevin Cash offered the following explanation ahead of the game. “We all want to keep guys comfortable,” he told reporters, including Neil Solondz, “and he’s never been past third as far as I know so we’re going to keep him up there.”
Franco, a switch hitter, hit 0.315 / 0.367 / 0.586 with seven homers, six triples and five steals (albeit on nine tries) in 39 Triple-A games. Notably, his strikeout percentage was only 11.8%, despite being nearly seven years younger than his average competition. Franco is used to performing well against older players, as evidenced by his career slash line of .332 / .398 / .536.
For those curious about Franco’s jersey number, he sticks to No. 5. Why? In honor of his Dominican compatriot Albert Pujols. Here’s what Franco told MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez about the tribute:
“I wear number 5. The only Dominican player who has really had much success wearing this number is Albert Pujols. That’s why I wear it. It is out of respect and homage to Albert Pujols. He put so much on. numbers, and he’s just a legend in the Dominican Republic. “
We have more on what to expect from Franco here.