Wander Franco didn’t take long to show why he’s baseball’s best prospect in his MLB debut on Tuesday
Wander Franco’s big league career was less than five innings old before he had his first magical moment.
Franco, the top prospect in baseball and playing third base for the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox, had a quiet night, drawing a walk and flying out to center his first two times to the plate. Then came the bottom half of the fifth inning.
The Red Sox were leading their AL East rivals 5-2, scoring five runs in the third. Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez hadn’t given up a run since the first. But, on the first pitch of the fifth, he hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch. Yandy Diaz reached on a single to right and suddenly there were two runners on for the player the fans at Tropicana Field had come to see.
Rodriguez threw Franco a slider down in the zone for the first pitch of the at-bat. Franco, who hit 27 home runs in the minors including seven this season for Triple-A Durham, connected with it and sent the ball 362 feet into the left-field bleachers. The game was now tied, thanks to the mighty bat of the youngest player in the game.
Franco is the first player born in 2001 to play in the big leagues. He’s the first player in Rays franchise history with a three-run home run in his MLB debut and the first to do it across the league since Francisco Arcia of the Angels on July 26, 2018. Only three other players in MLB history had hit a three-run homer in their debut before turning 21: Starlin Castro, Jason Heyward, and Ruben Sierra. None of them tied the game with their homer as Franco did.
Franco’s father had a great view of his son’s moment.
Franco and the Rays had been waiting for a moment like this
It was a special moment, but not one that was entirely unexpected. Franco has been the top-ranked prospect each of the last two years, a player with superstar potential who was just waiting for the opportunity. He got it on Tuesday and made the most of it.
“I feel really good and I feel ready. I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” he said before the game. “This is the opportunity I’ve wanted my whole life, so I feel good and I feel really happy about it.”
Franco added a double down the left-field line in the seventh inning and is currently 2-3 with three RBI. He had a wide smile even before putting on a Rays uniform for the first time as a big leaguer. He gave himself a reason to keep on smiling, and the Rays have to feel excited about witnessing a star be born in front of their eyes.