After signing with the Rays in 2017, Wander Samuel Franco quickly proved Tampa Bay’s $3.8 million was money well spent. The 5’10” Dominican shortstop was named the Appalachian League MVP at just seventeen years old in 2018 and became the consensus number one overall prospect just two years later. During his two seasons in the Rays minor league system so far, the switch hitter has batted a combined .336/.405/.523 and was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2019. Still young, Franco will only be twenty years old at the beginning of the 2021 season but has consistently faced older competition and has had great success. Despite suffering a bicep injury during winter ball this year, the star of the High A Charlotte Stone Crabs expects to be fully healthy for spring training.
Card collectors have been eagerly anticipating Franco’s debut since he first made his appearance on the 2019 Bowman Prospect Autograph checklist. That anticipation is duly reflected in the value of the potential super star’s first Bowman Chrome autograph card. The ungraded base version is currently averaging $680.81. Even with the potential for such a high payout, most of Franco’s collectors seem content to sit and wait for his debut. However, there was a flurry of buying and selling in October when the Rays teased collectors by adding their top prospect to the team’s postseason taxi squad but Franco never saw the field. After the World Series, the number of Franco sales dropped 50% in November, then an additional 33% from November to December. With such a high initial price point and dwindling supply of available sellers, any variation of Wander Franco’s first Bowman Chrome autograph card is likely out of reach for most collectors. For those that are able to afford the next big thing, the sky seems to be the limit for Franco in 2021.