2:45pm: Manager Kevin Cash says the timeline for Franco’s return is two-to-three weeks, per Topkin (via Twitter). That would get Franco back to the field before the end of the season.
TODAY, 10:40am: As expected, the Rays placed Franco on the 10-day injured list, recalling shortstop Taylor Walls to take his place on the roster. In addition, Randy Arozarena was reinstated from the paternity list and Josh Lowe was optioned back to Triple-A, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). Franco will have an MRI done later today to determine the extend of his hamstring strain.
SEPT. 10: Rays shortstop Wander Franco left this evening’s game against the Tigers in the first inning due to right hamstring tightness. After the game, manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) the expectation is that Franco will require a stint on the injured list.
Presumably, Franco will go for further testing to determine the extent of the injury and a projected timetable for his return. With an eight and a half game cushion in the AL East, the Rays shouldn’t have much issue weathering the loss of the star rookie for the next few weeks. But it’d obviously be disastrous news for Tampa Bay if the injury were to threaten his readiness for the start of postseason play a little less than a month from now.
The game’s consensus top prospect entering the season, Franco has demonstrated exactly why he’s so highly-regarded over his first couple months in the majors. Tampa Bay selected the switch-hitter to make his big league debut in late June. Franco started off slowly over his first couple weeks, but the 20-year-old’s recent run of play has been historic. He’s reached base safely in each of his past 39 games (including tonight’s contest, in which he singled in his only plate appearance). In MLB history, only Hall of Famer Frank Robinson has posted a longer on-base streak (43 games in 1956) at such a young age.
Altogether, Franco owns a .285/.347/.463 line (126 wRC+) over his first 271 big league plate appearances. He’s walking and hitting for power at essentially league average rates, but Franco has demonstrated excellent bat-to-ball skills. His 12.9% strikeout rate is almost ten percentage points lower than the league average, an impressive achievement for any player — let alone one as young as Franco.
The Rays do have ample infield depth to cover shortstop while Franco’s on the shelf. Fellow top prospects Vidal Bruján and Taylor Walls have logged some big league time this year and could be recalled from Triple-A Durham. Joey Wendle could also slide over from his typical third base position on occasion, with Yandy Díaz capable of manning the hot corner and Ji-Man Choi playing first base in such a scenario.