ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays rookie shortstop Wander Franco has joined Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, Arky Vaughan and Frank Robinson in Hall of Fame company.
His two-run homer on Wednesday night off Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale extended Franco's on-base streak to 32 games. That’s the longest active streak in the Majors, which is impressive enough in its own right. But it’s even more incredible when you consider that he's just 20 -- and look at the other players who put together a similar streak at such a young age.
Among players age 20 or younger, Franco’s streak is the fifth longest in American League/National League history and the second longest in AL history. On Sunday, he broke a tie with the 28-game run Mantle put together from June 14-July 10, 1952, and on Tuesday he passed Ott's first streak of 30 games. Mantle is the only AL player to own a longer streak before turning 21, as he reached safely in 36 straight games from Sept. 5, 1951-May 4, 1952.
Franco’s streak is the longest by any player under the age of 21 since Robinson’s 43-game on-base stretch from May 26-July 7, 1956. Franco is now just one game shy of Ott (33 in 1929), Vaughan (a 33-gamer in '32) and Mantle. Yes, every player on the list Franco has joined is a Hall of Famer.
“We’re just kind of in awe. He plays so hard and he’s getting it done offensively, defensively, on the bases,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Like we’ve said from Day 1, he’s a good player, he’s a special player, and he’s going to only get better.”
Franco’s current on-base run has already set a Rays rookie record and is tied with the longest single-season streak by a Ray since Tommy Pham’s 32-gamer from Aug. 21-Sept. 30, 2018. When it reached 24 games, the longest by a player his age since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1990, the former top prospect reacted with humility, grateful that his work was starting to pay off.
But he also displayed the confidence and comfort that have grown considerably during his two months in the Majors.
“You guys all know that’s a legendary name, and everybody wants to be like him,” Franco said on Aug. 22. “So we’re just going to keep on going on until records get broken."
Following an electric debut and an up-and-down start to his career, Franco has settled in to become more or less the hitter the Rays expected.
While what Franco is doing is remarkable for a player of his age and experience, it’s hardly a surprise to the teammates who have seen him develop from baseball’s top prospect into a full-fledged big leaguer.
“The physical tools are exceptional. And sometimes you see guys who can do what he can do from the physical side, but the approach is so mature. It's way beyond 20 years old,” Chris Archer said earlier this week. “You just think comparatively, [there are] sophomores in college, some freshmen in college, who are 20 years old. And the approach is so mature, the physical tools can be put on full display, especially at the plate. I mean, he's patient. He has power. He'll hit the ball the other way when he needs to. It's so mature.”