Amid Long On-Base Streak, Wander Franco Has Found His Groove

On Tuesday night, rookie sensation Wander Franco extended his streak of getting on-base at least once to an impressive 31 games. There’s still quite a ways to go before you make the shade of Ted Williams wonder if his 84-game (!) streak is in jeopardy, but it’s a mighty impressive feat for a 20-year-old.

That said, Franco is no ordinary rookie. As much a consensus No. 1 prospect as anyone I can ever remember, he didn’t exactly sneak up on anyone who was paying attention; his 80 Future Value grade — a first on our prospect lists — wasn’t something given out recklessly. At 18, an age at which minor league prospects are just getting started in the “real” professional leagues, he was already terrorizing the full-season Florida State League, hitting .339/.408/.464. That would be great for a first base prospect; for a young shortstop, it’s astounding.

Despite losing a key developmental season in 2020, Franco didn’t need much time to get going. Skipped right to Triple-A this year, he hit .315/.367/.586 for the Durham Bulls and was called up six weeks later. Outside of a home run in his very first game, the first week or two was an adjustment period; through 14 games, his line stood at .211/.274/.351 with 13 strikeouts in 57 at-bats against five walks. But since starting his on-base streak, he’s hit .314/.385/.504, also with 13 strikeouts but in 121 ABs.

Every streak has some element of good fortune, but in Franco’s running plate discipline numbers, you can almost see him adjusting to pitchers. And those numbers tend to be “stickier” than most other offensive numbers; short-term changes in results are more likely to be real compared to, say, batting average.

After his first two weeks in the majors, Franco’s contact rate increased despite him simultaneously swinging at more pitches. As pitchers in recent weeks have started throwing fewer strikes against him, that swing rate has responded accordingly, but his rate of contact has continued to rise. His performance during the streak isn’t exactly a galaxy away from his ZiPS minor league translation of .291/.335/.503 at Durham; combine that with the real improvements in plate discipline, and you can make a good argument that we’re seeing the bonafide Wander Franco in these waning days of summer.

Amusingly, you could make an argument that he’s been slightly unlucky during this stretch. Including cross-season streaks, there have been 199 on-base streaks of 31 games or more since the start of the 2002 season. Those players combined for a .378 BABIP during those runs, nearly 50 points above their collective zBABIP (the ZiPS estimate of BABIP from hit data) of .329. ZiPS thinks that Franco has “earned” a .329 BABIP during his streak, which is four points off his actual mark of .333 over those 31 games. For the curious, perhaps the unluckiest player in this luck-filled category is Edwin Encarnación, who somehow managed a 31-game on-base with a shockingly low .215 BABIP, well below the next worst (Alex Bregman at .261).

Regardless of where the streak goes, Franco’s seasonal line of .273/.336/.440 and 1.6 WAR in only 54 games ought to put him in the AL Rookie of the Year discussion. I’m not a voter for that award (I have an NL Rookie of the Year vote this season), but I would certainly give him serious consideration. After all, unlike the MVP award, which explicitly instructs us to consider value (defined as “strength of offense and defense”) and games played, there’s no similar instruction that Rookie of the Year necessarily means most valuable rookie. As such, along similar lines in Hall of Fame voting, I personally consider a blend of peak and year to be appropriate.

Right now, Franco ranks eighth in the AL by WAR. Adding in our depth chart projections gives us an idea of where he should end up after the final month of the season.

Projected WAR for AL Rookies
Name WAR RoS WAR Total WAR
Adolis García 3.1 0.2 3.3
Luis Garcia 2.8 0.1 2.9
Randy Arozarena 2.3 0.5 2.8
Cole Irvin 2.1 0.3 2.4
Shane McClanahan 2.0 0.3 2.3
Wander Franco 1.6 0.7 2.3
Dane Dunning 1.9 0.3 2.2
Ramón Urías 1.6 0.5 2.1
Emmanuel Clase 1.7 0.3 2.0
Ryan Mountcastle 1.5 0.3 1.8
Logan Gilbert 1.5 0.3 1.8
Garrett Whitlock 1.5 0.1 1.6
Tanner Houck 1.4 0.2 1.6
Chas McCormick 1.3 0.2 1.5
Michael Kopech 1.3 0.1 1.4
Alek Manoah 1.1 0.3 1.4
Nick Madrigal 1.4 0.0 1.4
Akil Baddoo 1.4 0.0 1.4
Eric Haase 1.2 0.2 1.4
Andrew Vaughn 1.0 0.2 1.2

A month isn’t a long time, but we still have Franco closing a third of the gap between him and the AL leaders. While I suspect that one of the Garcias will end up winning the award, Franco is close enough that I can imagine many voters debating about how to treat a half-season of numbers (his debut was in Tampa Bay’s 74th game). Facing off against a rookie having a crazy-awesome season, he would likely be dead in the water. Without that, Shortstopissimo Wander Franco is still alive.

One last thing on Franco. In response to a piece earlier this week, I heard some disappointment from readers that he didn’t appear on the list of players with a projected chance at 500 homers (for what it’s worth, he just missed the cutoff). He may not have established his home run power enough to get ZiPS excited in that department, but his long-term projection remains bananas. So, nothing wrong with a little fan service!

ZiPS Projection – Wander Franco
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2022 .280 .337 .445 596 94 167 31 11 15 96 50 85 10 113 4 4.0
2023 .286 .345 .468 577 95 165 33 12 16 100 51 82 9 121 4 4.5
2024 .292 .353 .496 579 99 169 35 13 19 108 53 78 9 130 5 5.3
2025 .294 .358 .512 578 101 170 35 14 21 112 56 79 8 135 5 5.7
2026 .291 .357 .511 573 101 167 35 14 21 112 57 80 8 135 5 5.7
2027 .290 .358 .509 566 100 164 33 14 21 111 59 81 8 135 5 5.6
2028 .286 .356 .508 555 98 159 32 14 21 108 59 80 8 134 5 5.5
2029 .283 .354 .504 538 94 152 31 14 20 103 58 77 7 132 4 5.1
2030 .279 .351 .489 519 90 145 29 13 18 98 55 72 7 128 3 4.6
2031 .279 .348 .483 499 84 139 27 12 17 92 51 65 6 125 2 4.1
2032 .274 .340 .465 475 77 130 24 11 15 83 46 60 6 119 2 3.4
2033 .270 .334 .447 434 68 117 22 8 13 73 41 52 4 112 1 2.6
2034 .268 .330 .407 396 60 106 20 1 11 60 35 45 3 101 -1 1.8
2035 .264 .323 .391 363 53 96 17 1 9 52 30 39 3 96 -2 1.2
2036 .259 .312 .370 332 45 86 14 1 7 44 25 34 2 87 -3 0.6
2037 .250 .302 .345 296 38 74 11 1 5 36 21 28 1 78 -4 0.0
2038 .245 .294 .327 220 27 54 7 1 3 26 14 19 1 71 -5 -0.4
2039 .242 .285 .317 161 19 39 4 1 2 17 9 13 1 66 -5 -0.6

That’s the projection of a perennial All-Star and one who doesn’t need that many things to go right to start making a solid Cooperstown case. Between Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto, and so on, baseball fans have been blessed with one of the most exciting groups of young phenoms at any time in history. Franco appears to be at the point where he can demand a membership card.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

newest oldest most voted
MFG
Member
MFG

I’ll take the over for 2022

Joey Caltrain
Member
Member
Joey Caltrain

I’ll take the over for 2032!

(Not that the median projections are all that unreasonable when I sit back and think about it, but it still *feels* weird to see a player like Franco ageing so quickly and projected to be a bench piece by his mid-30s)

tz
Member

I’ll take the over overall.

Dmjn53
Member
Dmjn53

If my math is correct the sub-replacement level seasons are his age 36 and 37. You won’t find many middle infielders producing at a high level at that age