Rays’ Wander Franco Among Top MLB Prospects To Watch This Spring

Spring training games are underway in Florida and Arizona. And there even some fans in the stands in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.

One of the fun parts of spring training is getting a look at the sport’s up-and-coming talent, especially in the early games before teams begin cutting their rosters down to the eventual opening-day limit of 26 players.

Here is a look at five intriguing prospects to watch in these next few weeks. The one caveat is they cannot have appeared in a regular season game in the major leagues.


The 5-foot-10, 189-pounder is a little on the stocky side and does not necessarily look the part of a shortstop. However, the 20-year-old – his birthday was Monday — switch-hitter is considered the consensus top prospect in the game.

Franco is an outstanding hitter and shows the potential to contend for both batting and home run titles. In two minor league seasons – all the farm clubs had their schedules canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic – he has hit .336/.405/.523 with 20 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 175 games.

Though he has yet to play above the Single-A level, Franco is such an advanced prospect that he could conceivably start the season in Triple-A and make his major league debut at some point in 2021.


Another switch-hitter, the 23-year-old catcher was the first overall pick in the 2019 amateur draft following a standout collegiate career at Oregon State.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder batted .254/.351/.423 with four homers in 37 games in his first taste of pro ball in 2019. He started at the Rookie level and finished in Single-A. This year, he will probably start out at Double-A with a good chance of ending up in the big leagues.

Rutschman drives the ball with a smooth uppercut stroke but also has outstanding plate discipline and is willing to take a walk. He profiles as the type of catcher who could hit 30 home runs a year while being solid or better defensively.


Rodriguez unwittingly was in the news recently when former Mariners club president Kevin Mather criticized the 20-year-old’s English skills while speaking at an online Rotary Club meeting.

The native of the Dominican Republic speaks the language fine and his bat talks even louder. In 143 minor league games over two seasons, Rodriguez has hit .322/.395/.534 with 17 homers while playing at the Rookie and Single-A levels.

Rodriguez has massive raw power potential from the right side, which he should untap as he refines his swing. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder runs well but profiles as a right fielder in the major leagues. He will likely begin the season at Double-A.


Kelenic is another Mariners outfield prospect who indirectly caused Mather to resign. Mather criticized the 22-year-old for not accepting a long-term contract offer with the Mariners that would have would bought out Kelenic’s salary arbitration-eligible years but been on very team friendly terms.

The Mets drafted Kelenic sixth overall in 2018 following his senior year of high school in Waukesha, Wisc. However, when Brodie Van Wagenen took over as general manager after that season, he traded Kelenic to the Mariners.

Kelenic has already made it to Double-A in just two pro seasons, hitting .290/.366/.516 with 29 home runs and 35 stolen bases in 173 games. The left-handed batter, who is 6-1 and 190, has the type of tools to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, though his so-so defense may relegate him to left field.

Kelenic figures to make it to the big leagues at some point in 2021.


The corner infield prospect is expected to make his much-anticipated professional debut in May, once the minor league season begins. The Detroit Tigers took Torkelson first overall in last year’s draft from Arizona State and he spent time at their alternate training site in Toledo.

The 21-year-old right-handed hitter belted a school-record 54 home runs in 129 career games with the Sun Devils. He also had a slash line of .337/.463/.729.

Torkelson is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and played primarily first base in college. The Tigers, though, want to try him at third base this year and his development at the position could dictate his timeline for reaching the majors.

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