The Rays are likely to activate Wander Franco from the 10-day injured list before tomorrow’s series opener with the Yankees, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The shortstop has been on a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham, but he traveled with the team to the Bronx during today’s off day and is likely to be back in the lineup on Friday night.
Franco has been out for two months. He suffered a hamate fracture in his right wrist on July 9, and he underwent surgery a few days later. That procedure came with a five-to-eight week recovery timetable. Franco comes in toward the latter end of that timeline, largely thanks to a couple brief setbacks along the way. Sent out on a rehab assignment in mid-August, the 21-year-old was pulled back a few days later after experiencing some residual soreness. That set Franco back a couple weeks, but he’s been in Durham’s lineup each of the past two nights.
A two-day rehab stint after an absence of this length doesn’t give Franco much time to get back into a rhythm, but the Rays are also facing one of their most important series of the year. Tampa Bay trails the Yankees by five games, and this weekend’s series will be the teams’ final meeting of the regular season. For the Rays to have a realistic chance at winning the AL East, they’ll probably have to at least take two of three to gain a game in the standings. Getting Franco back certainly helps those efforts, even if his second season in the majors hasn’t gone as smoothly as they’d have hoped.
The sport’s consensus top prospect before his promotion last summer, Franco hit .288/.347/.463 through his first 70 MLB games. He already looked like one of the sport’s top overall players, but the switch-hitting infielder has taken a bit of a step back in his sophomore campaign. He carries a .260/.308/.396 line through 247 trips to the plate. He’s been one of the league’s toughest players to strike out, but his power production has taken a bit of a step back. Franco has also had a pair of extended IL stints, missing a month due to a quad strain before this hamate issue.
Relatively slow start aside, there’s no question Franco represents a marked upgrade over the Rays other options at shortstop. Tampa Bay has primarily turned to Taylor Walls there in his absence. A former highly-regarded prospect himself (albeit not one of Franco’s caliber), Walls has stumbled to a .176/.267/.282 line over 408 trips to the dish.
Franco was joined on his rehab stint by Tyler Glasnow, who tossed an inning on 19 pitches last night for Durham. It marked the big right-hander’s first game action since he underwent Tommy John surgery last August. Glasnow, who signed an extension two weeks back, continues to pursue a late-season return to the club. There’s a bit less than a month remaining on the regular season schedule, but the 29-year-old could factor in as an abbreviated starter or reliever for the stretch run and postseason if all goes according to plan.
It wasn’t all positive news on the injury front for the Rays, as they’re shutting down one of their top prospects for the season. Infielder Curtis Mead is out for the year with a forearm/elbow issue, tweets Triple-A broadcaster Patrick Kinas. Mead, a 21-year-old third baseman/second baseman, raked at a .305/.394/.548 clip through 56 games with Double-A Montgomery. That earned him a bump to Durham in late June, where he’d been off to a .278/.376/.486 start before the injury.
That monster showing has elevated Mead’s prospect status. Baseball America slotted the Australia native 3rd in an excellent Tampa Bay system and 24th overall on its most recent Top 100 prospect rankings. While he’s yet to make his major league debut, he’ll no doubt be added to the 40-man roster this winter to keep him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft. With a strong start to next season for the Bulls, Mead could factor into the Rays infield by the middle part of next season.