Rays Prospects

Willy Adames: Unknown Quanity in Rays’ David Price Trade

By Thomas Swan

When fans look at trades, they want to know who is going to help the team now. They have little interest in the young guy years away until they’re knocking on the front door of the big club demanding to be let in. When the Tampa Bay Rays traded David Price to the Detroit Tigers there were three things known. The first was the Rays were losing their ace, the second was the were getting a good pitcher in Drew Smyly back in return, who had success in the bullpen, is improving as a starter, and is under team control for three years after this one. The third thing known was the Rays were getting a solid position player in Nick Franklin back in return. He has above-average power for a middle infielder, can play anywhere, is a switch hitter, and is going  to a team that has the master of all those, Ben Zobrist. But what about the young guy the Rays got back from the Tigers in the David Price deal, the afterthought in the mind of Rays fans? Who is Willy Adames and what do the Rays have in the 18 year old Dominican?

Well, by all reports, the answer is their potential shortstop of the future. By no means a throw in the deal, Adames is the type of player that, big picture-wise, may tip this deal in the Rays favor. The 6’1″ , 180 Adames signed with the Tigers in July 2012 as an international free agent and made his professional debut in 2013 with the Dominican Summer League Tigers, where in 60 games he slashed a .245/.419/.370 line. That wasn’t overly surprising. However, the Tigers saw something than the numbers by themselves would not indicate and promoted him extremely aggressively to Low-A West Michigan when most players in his situation would end up Rookie ball. Adames is the youngest regular position player in the Midwest League, and he is 3.5 years younger than the average age for hitters in the circuit. Yet despite everything going against him, Adames has played extremely well this season, hitting to a .269/.346/.428 line in 98 games with the Whitecaps and now 1 game with the Rays-affiliated Hot Rods.

Willy Adames was viewed by many around baseball as having one of the highest ceilings in the Tigers organization. Going into his first professional season in the states, Adames was ranked 30th in the Detroit system by Baseball America. However, in their mid-season report, he had jumped to 5th. The Tigers’ farm system is not the best in the world, but that is no reflection on Adames’ ability. His patience is the first thing that leaps off of all scouting reports and remember that this is a kid playing against opponents much older than him. Prior to this season, Baseball America noted that Adames had gap power that would probably improve, good hands, and a strong arm. Then, prior to the trade deadline, they noted that Adames has already made progress towards improving by adding strength and smoothing out flaws in his swing.

Given that Willy Adames is at least three years away even in the best of circumstances, it’s understandable for Rays fans to be a little grouchy about the return for David Price. When Willy Adames finally hits the big leagues, however, he has a chance to turn those frowns around. In Adames, the Rays found a high-upside shortstop prospect both at the plate and in the field, and he may just wind up being the type of player everyone was expecting the Rays would receive when they traded Price.