The Rays officially started working out Wander Franco at third base yesterday, though manager Kevin Cash insists it’s no more a reaction to the Ji-Man Choi injury than it is a sign that Franco needs to (or will) make the move, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Yandy Diaz and Yoshi Tsutsugo could move from third to first most days while Choi is out, and Joey Wendle will be the third baseman in that case with Mike Brosseau reprising his role from the postseason to take on southpaws.
Lest there be any doubt, the Rays reassigned their top prospect to minor league camp today, per Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com (via Twitter). It appears as if Franco will start the season at Triple-A. Franco was never really expected to be on the opening day roster, despite his enormous potential. He just turned 20 years old on March 1st, and he has yet to appear in a pro game above High-A. Though the minor league seasons won’t start on time, Franco will still be able to work out and train with those in the organization.
In regards to a potential move to third base, that decision will be kicked down the line for now. Whether or not Franco’s best-case future is at short or elsewhere on the infield is one question, but there’s also the Willy Adames issue which will continue to inform the Rays in their decision-making process. Whereas Franco’s bat should have no trouble playing at third, Adames brings the most value with his glove at short, especially if the 25-year-old continues to improve his glovework. Adames, however, will go through arbitration for the first time before next season, and the Rays aren’t shy about flipping talent well before their sell-by date.