Wander Franco Tampa Bay Rays
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 prospect in baseball arrived with a bang on Tuesday. How does he impact the AL East race — and the Yankees’ moves before the deadline?

Tab Bamford

If you hadn’t heard of Wander Franco before Tuesday, you likely have now.

The 20-year-old Dominican shortstop had been the No. 1 ranked prospect by everyone over the past two years. The Tampa Bay Rays traded Wily Adames to make room for him and, on Tuesday, he made his much-anticipated MLB debut.

And he didn’t waste any time letting people know he was for real.

 

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Franco, who started at third base batting second for the Rays, hit a missile of a home run in his second career big league plate appearance. He followed that up with a rocket off the wall in left that he turned into a double because, not only can he hit, he can fly as well.

He finished his debut 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three runs batted in. And everyone was impressed.

The unfortunate reality for fans of every other team in the American League East is that Franco is about to become one of the best players in the best division in the game.

And that doesn’t bode well for the Yankees.

Big Trouble in Tampa

As we wake up on Wednesday morning in the glow of Franco’s debut, the Yankees are four games behind Tampa and 5.5 behind the first place Red Sox.

Tampa has done the Yankees (and the rest of a division) a favor; they’ve lost seven in a row. And they’re now going to be without their ace, Tyler Glasnow, for what appears to be the rest of the division.

But now Tampa has some new energy in the lineup. And, arguably, just added the best bat in the organization.

Let’s also not forget the Rays have the Yankees’ number. They own the Yankees recently. And, now, they have Franco to make life miserable for the pinstripes.

Yankees’ response?

First, let’s eliminate the elephant in the room: calling up Jasson Dominguez is not the answer. He hasn’t played a professional game yet. He might be the Yankees’ answer to Franco eventually, but rushing him doesn’t help his development or the organization.

The Yankees do have their issues, however. They’re chasing two teams in the division and Toronto’s offense is going to keep them competitive. The AL East is a beast and that reality was strengthened with the arrival of Franco.

If the Yankees do respond — which they should — it should be in the form of a trade to get some left-handed help in their lineup well before the trade deadline.

The Yankees should strike quickly and make their push as July starts — not after the trade deadline. They have shown enough issues on the field to this point that work needs to be done and the arrival of Franco could make the Rays harder to catch as the season progresses.