The chances of Wander Franco returning this season have taken a hit, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays’ shortstop has been pulled off his rehab assignment due to continued soreness in his right hand.
It’s been a frustrating season for the 21-year-old, the first campaign of the huge 11-year, $182MM extension he signed with the Rays in November. After years of hype as one of the top prospects in baseball, often being considered the very best, Franco arrived with aplomb last year. He got into 70 games in his debut season, hitting .288/.347/.463 for a wRC+ of 127, or 27% better than league average. At the end of that successful season, the Rays gave him the largest contract in team history, hoping to have him serve as the face of the franchise for the next decade-plus.
Unfortunately, it’s been a series of injury setbacks here in 2022. Franco missed most of June due to a quad strain, returning for about two weeks before landing on the IL again, this time due to discomfort in his hand and wrist area. The club later announced that Franco would undergo surgery to address damage to his hamate bone, providing a window of 5-8 as his estimated recovery timeline. It was approximately five weeks later, August 16, that Franco began his rehab assignment. However, it seems that the issue hasn’t quite cleared, with Franco now being shut down for a little bit longer.
This latest setback will put a dent in how much Franco can contribute for the club down the stretch. There are now just over six weeks remaining on the MLB schedule for the regular season. Though the club hasn’t provided any kind of updated timeline of what they expect for the next steps, Franco will first have to get beyond the soreness he’s experiencing and then resume his rehab assignment before the Rays can think about having him rejoin the big league club. Tampa currently holds the final Wild Card spot in the American League, though Minnesota is within a game and a half, with three other clubs with five games.
Until then, the Rays will likely continue slotting Taylor Walls into shortstop, as they have done for most of the games with Franco out of action. He’s hitting .179/.275/.297 on the year for a wRC+ of 73.