Tampa Bay Rays: What will Wander Franco’s 2022 look like?

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - AUGUST 30: Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a two-run single in the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on August 30, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - AUGUST 30: Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a two-run single in the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on August 30, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Rays have a budding star in Wander Franco. He has been one of the most hyped-up prospects in recent memory and, after his rookie season, he signed a massive, long-term extension to stay with the Rays.

In 2021, Franco slashed .288/.347/.463/.810 for the Tampa Bay Rays with seven homers, 18 doubles, five triples, 53 runs scored, and 39 runs driven in. His BsR was 3.1, his OPS+ was 129, his wRC+ was 127, and his bWAR was 3.5.

So how will Wander Franco perform for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2022?

Baseball Reference projects Franco to post a .279/.345/.458/.802 with 10 homers, 19 doubles, four triples, 55 runs scored, and 45 RBI. I’m not sure why, but this projection only has Franco playing essentially half of the season, with 354 plate appearances and 319 at-bats. He should shatter those numbers.

Steamer predicts a much bigger season for Franco, with a .289/.346/.472/.818 slash line with 19 homers, 33 doubles, nine triples, 85 runs scored, and 84 driven in. This prediction is based on him playing the full season, with 651 plate appearances and 589 at-bats in 149 games.

I think, realistically, his final stat line will be somewhere in the middle of these projections, probably leaning closer to the Steamer projections. He should be playing just about everyday as the starting shortstop, so he’ll probably finish the year with around 550 at-bats. I think a .280/.350/.470 slash line with an OPS+ approaching 130 and around 15 to 17 homers is reasonable.

Next. The Rays splitting a season between Tampa and Montreal is a bad idea. dark

Keep in mind, Franco is going into his age 21 season (he doesn’t even turn 21 until March). Franco is going to continue to grow in every aspect of the game. He reminds me a lot of Manny Machado when he first came up. He’s hitting a lot of hard-hit doubles that will turn into homers as he grows into his body and gets stronger. The Tampa Bay Rays will have one of the best budding hitters in the league in their lineup for the foreseeable future.