BALTIMORE -- The Rays made a significant addition on Sunday, the first day of the international signing period, by bringing Wander Samuel Franco of the Dominican Republic into the fold, inking him to a Minor League contract for $3.85 million.
Franco is a switch-hitting shortstop and ranked No. 1 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 30 International Prospects list. He has a polished approach on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the teenager has shown the ability to make good contact from both sides of the plate. A flashy player, Franco is a solid defender and has the type of speed that could land him at the top of the batting order.
Franco, who hails from Bani, Dominican Republic, was scouted and signed by the Rays' director of international scouting Carlos Rodriguez and Dominican Republic scouting supervisor Danny Santana.
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"We are excited to bring Wander Samuel into the organization," Rodriguez said. "We saw this as an opportunity to add to our system a high-caliber, switch-hitting shortstop with a good blend of tools and skills. He's very young, but very mature -- with great bloodlines. This signing was a great team effort, led by Danny Santana, and with contributions by scouts from the Dominican, Venezuela and the United States. I can't say enough about all of our scouts and the job they did to make this happen."
Franco is the nephew of current Major League infielder Erick Aybar and former Major League infielder Willy Aybar, who spent five years in the Majors -- including three seasons (2008-10) with the Rays. He also has two older brothers currently playing in the Minors: Wander Javier Franco, 22, a third baseman in the Royals organization; and Wander Alexander Franco, 20, a corner infielder in the Astros system.
Erick Aybar was excited upon learning his nephew had joined the professional baseball family.
"He's a complete player. He's a good player," Aybar said. "He runs. He can hit. He fields. He throws. It's not just because he's a family member. For me, just watching him, I can tell he's going to be a good player. You can see that he's got instincts."
The Rays have now added MLB.com's top-rated collegiate player -- left-hander/first baseman Brendan McKay -- and top-rated international player to the organization in the last month.
According to the new rules established by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, every team will get at least $4.75 million to spend on international prospects. Any team receiving a Competitive Balance Round A pick in the Draft will get $5.25 million in international bonus pool money. Additionally, teams receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick will have $5.75 million to spend.
A club can trade as much of its international pool money as it would like, but there is a limit -- 75 percent of a team's initial pool -- to how much one team can acquire.
Tampa Bay's pool total for this year's signing period is $5.25 million.