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Sleeper Prospect: Austin Franklin, SP, Rays

Good news regarding a Tampa Bay pitcher

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t been the best of times for Tampa Bay Rays pitchers. Not even mentioning the trade of Jake Odorizzi —though, I just did— the farm system for the Rays has been dealt two devastating blows to to of their top prospects.

Two pitchers, a blue chipper and another young arm who previously held similar estheem with the Los Angeles Dodgers, both fell victim to Tommy John in just the past several days.

Brent Honeywell will undergo the surgery (that is no longer the Boogeyman injury it used to be) for a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

That was February 24th. On March 7th, news broke that Jose De Leon, acquired for veteran Logan Forsythe an offseason ago, fell victim to the same injury and would also require season-ending surgery.

Honeywell was slated to compete for as high as the number two spot in what is going to be tried as a four-man rotation. De Leon, who has struggled to find his footing in the majors, was rumored anywhere from the back of the rotation to working behind closer Alex Colome in the bullpen.

Either way, both will spend 2018 recovering and while it is far too early to call either player’s long-term prospects into question, let us actually find some good news regarding a young Tampa Bay pitching prospect.

The Andalusia Star-News

Austin Franklin, a Florida native from the northern city of Paxton, was a third round pick by the Rays in the 2016 MLB Draft. Still just 20 years young, he is a quick riser in a very fluid system.

As an 18-year old in his rookie ball debut, Franklin immediately impressed. He made 11 appearances for the Gulf Coast League Rays in 2016, starting nine games while posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

Moving on up to Short-A Hudson Valley last season, the young pitcher continued to perform well. He started 13 games, finishing with a fantastic 2.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and also raised his K/9 average from a very good 8.3 in rookie ball to a fantastic 9.2 in Short-A.

He keeps the ball in the park and hitters don’t find many holes opposing him. Against fellow youth competition, his biggest competitor is his own command. Walks are a little too high for the liking (BB/9 of 4.00 last season), but the potential here is right where a teenage third-rounder’s should be. Through the roof.

Still very raw —and obviously very young—, the 6 foot 3 righty bumped up from slot 21 to 14 in John’s annual Rays ranking. The upside is undeniable and he will jump to full season competition this season. A strong showing there could elevate him to one of baseball’s best pitching prospects come 2019.