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Tampa Bay Rays star formally charged by Dominican prosecutors: reports

According to multiple reports, Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been formally charged with sexual harassment and sexual exploitation of a minor in the Dominican Republic.

Franco has not played since August 2023, when the Rays placed him on the restricted list following allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a minor. At the time, it was reported that Franco was 21 when he began a relationship with a 14-year-old girl in December 2022.

According to SinCortapisa.com, in addition to the numerous charges brought against Franco, the girl’s mother has been charged with money laundering.

The investigation leading to the charges took nearly a year, but Franco’s legal journey is just beginning. Juan Arturo Recio of ESPN reports that the 23-year-old Franco faces up to 20 years in prison:

According to Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times, prosecutors had been working toward a July 5 deadline to file formal charges for six months. When they didn’t file by Friday, under Dominican legal procedure, they had another 10 days from the time the court notified them to do so, and they did so Tuesday in Puerto Plata.

While the next steps for Franco, his victim and her family remain unclear, the Rays’ future will almost certainly be without the player once considered the future of the club.

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – AUGUST 12: Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the fifth inning of a game against the Cleveland Guardians at Tropicana Field on August 12, 2023 in St Petersburg, Florida….


Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Franco, considered the top prospect in baseball heading into the 2020 and 2021 seasons, signed an 11-year, $182 million contract with the Rays in November 2021.

On the field, his play was electrifying. Franco finished third in voting for the 2021 American League Rookie of the Year after hitting a .288 average with seven home runs and 39 RBI in 70 games after being promoted to the MLB midseason.

Franco continued that streak into his sophomore season, where he posted a .277 average and recorded just 33 strikeouts in 344 at-bats — an elite display of major league batting ability for a 21-year-old.

In 2023, Franco made the AL All-Star team for the first time at age 22 and posted a .281 average in 112 games. He also showed the first signs of real power and speed, hitting 17 home runs and stealing 30 bases.

Whatever future the Rays were planning with Franco as their centerpiece now appears inevitable.

Thankfully, there are few similar cases involving a Major League Baseball player in recent history. Former Pittsburgh Pirates player Felipe Vazquez was arrested and deported to his native Venezuela after being convicted by a Pennsylvania court in 2021 of sexually assaulting a then-13-year-old Arizona girl and inappropriately communicating with her over a period of nearly two years, beginning in 2017.