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Hot Prospects to Watch Week 22: Franco, Ashby, Duran

Can you believe that the minor league season is almost over? Just one more week left before playoffs begin.

We've taken a look at a lot of prospects this year — some who are nearly household names by now and others who are flying under the radar. This week's list doesn't feature a "big-name" prospect along the lines of Michael Kopech, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Eloy Jimenez, but one of the players in this list might not be far off from joining their ranks. Wander Franco was recently named the Appalachian League Player of the Year to cap off what has been an eye-opening debut season for the 17-year-old, and his stock is definitely on the rise.

So before the minor league seasons end, let's take a look at who is lighting up the stat sheets this week.

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Wander-ing both near and far

Wander Franco - SS, Princeton Rays (Advanced Rookie: Tampa Bay Rays)

Upcoming games: at Greeneville 8/28-29

As the Princeton Rays made their push to secure a berth in the playoffs, Wander Franco turned up the heat at the plate to lead the Rays into a first place finish in their division. Over his last 10 games, Franco has hit .325 with three home runs, 10 RBI and a 1.000 OPS over 45 plate appearances. This kind of performance is nothing new for Franco, as he has been almost the entirety of Princeton's offense this year — leading the team in nearly every major category, including an Appalachian League-best .359 average and 1.034 OPS. His impressive numbers have been helped by his equally impressive plate discipline, where he has recorded a 10.3 percent walk rate and 6.5 percent strikeout rate over 262 plate appearances. Did I mention this is his first season of professional baseball? And that he's 17 years old? Obviously you can't always predict how a prospect will turn out after one season, but the signs are pointing in the right direction for Franco to end up a potential superstar.


Aaron Ashby - SP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Single-A: Milwaukee Brewers)

Projected starts: vs Beloit 8/30

Another player who made his professional debut this year, the Brewers' fourth round pick in this year's draft had been putting up good numbers throughout the season, but his last few starts have seen him hit another level. Over his last four starts Ashby recorded at least six strikeouts, but he hit double-digit strikeouts in his last two outings with 10 and 12 strikeouts respectively. This is along with allowing just six runs over 21 2/3 innings during his last four starts. Ashby's 1.33 WHIP and 3.76 ERA over 52 2/3 innings this year could use some improvement in the long run, but his 10.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 are both good signs for his future potential. As a 20-year-old draftee out of junior college, Ashby could find his way to Milwaukee by as soon as 2020 if he is able to continue this level of production. Dynasty owners should look into stashing him now, as another solid year in 2019 could see his value skyrocketing.


Jhoan Duran - SP, Cedar Rapids Kernels (Single-A: Minnesota Twins)

Projected starts: vs Burlington 8/30

Since being acquired in the trade that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks, Duran has been putting up significantly better numbers with Cedar Rapids. Over five starts with the Kernels, Duran has recorded a 2.25 ERA and 0.75 WHIP over 32 innings, while posting an 11.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. Duran has recorded nine strikeouts in three of his last four starts, including a season-high 10 strikeouts in his last start against his former team, the Kane County Cougars. This has been a career-year for the 20-year-old, as he has posted markedly improved numbers in almost every category across the board. While it's definitely a promising sign that maybe things are on the upswing for Duran, owners should also use some caution when acquiring him. His 10.4 K/9 is indeed a career-high, but his previous career mark was 7.1. Fantasy owners who are wanting to invest in him will want to keep a close eye on how he performs in 2019, but if he can prove this year's numbers are not a fluke, Duran could become a cheap, high strikeout upside pitcher that can be a boon to dynasty teams.


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