MLB’s top prospect is coming to The Show. 20-year-old Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco is expected to make his MLB debut Tuesday, which could be a game-changer in both dynasty and 2021 fantasy baseball leagues.
Wander Franco To Debut For Rays: 2021 Fantasy Baseball Outlook
What To Expect From Wander Franco
Franco, who was baseball’s consensus No. 1 prospect in both 2020 and 2021, is set to join the Rays on Tuesday for a crucial three-game series against the first-place Boston Red Sox, who currently lead Tampa Bay by half a game in the AL East standings.
While Franco is only 20, baseball fans have been eagerly anticipating his arrival for years. He’s been ranked as one of baseball’s best prospects since signing with the Rays in 2017, and he likely would have debuted last year had the minor-league season not been canceled by COVID-19. As a result, he was sent down at the beginning of this season for additional seasoning at Triple-A Durham, where he proved he was ready for the bigs by batting .315/.367/.586 with 24 extra-base hits and 35 RBIs in 39 games.
Given Franco’s pedigree and overwhelming success in the minors, he appears ready to hit the ground running in the majors. A young, five-tool shortstop with limitless potential, Franco appears destined for superstardom. The only question is not whether he’ll reach that level, but when.
Based on his minor-league dominance, it could be as soon as this year — at least with flashes of that ability. Of course, based on how fellow super-prospects like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper experienced some strikeout problems early in their careers — which resulted in being sent back to the minors — he could encounter some early struggles adjusting to quality major-league pitching.
Still, his polished makeup should leave his fantasy baseball managers more optimistic than not to at least be an above-replacement-player piece of their lineups.
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Wander Franco Fantasy Baseball 2021 Projection
With Franco’s well-rounded skill set, he should be able to assist fantasy baseball players in several key categories. Batting average might be his biggest asset considering his elite contact skills; he batted .332 with a microscopic 7.9% strikeout rate in the minors, which is roughly one-third of the current MLB average (23.9%). He’s not merely a singles hitter, either, as evidenced by his career .204 ISO. He’s also been aggressive on the bases with 48 stolen-base attempts in 214 minor-league games.
Accordingly, Franco is worth starting in all fantasy baseball leagues immediately — and obviously a waiver-wire pickup in any fantasy baseball leagues where he might’ve been sitting on the free-agent list.
With 89 games remaining on Tampa Bay’s schedule, Franco should get around 300-350 plate appearances if he plays the rest of the season, which should be enough time for him to notch double-digit homers and stolen bases while hitting for an average in the .280-.300 range. Depending on how well he plays, he could certainly be a deciding factor in fantasy baseball league title races this year.
The only potential concern with Franco is that the Rays are in the midst of a four-team battle for the AL East with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays, so they may bench him or send him back down if he struggles. It’s an unlikely scenario, but instant success is never guaranteed in a sport where even the most gifted players can take a while to find their footing. If he performs as expected, however, he’ll provide an instant boost to the Rays and fantasy baseball lineups alike.
In the event that Franco is sent down, fantasy baseball GMs should try to stash him on the bench if possible. He should only be dropped in extremely shallow mixed leagues that don’t involve keepers.