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Rays top 50 prospects: No. 1, Willy Adames

This one should come as no surprise.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The top player in our rankings is one of the best trade acquisitions — if not THE best acquisition — ever made by the Rays. And that’s important to note when you consider they were dealing ace David Price at the time! He tops our list and seems set to alter the infield’s fortunes for the better in the extremely near future.

No.1, Willy Rafael (Luna) Adames, SS, 22 years old

Born: September 2, 1995 in Santiago, Dominican Republic

Height/Weight: 6’0” 200 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R

Signed: by the Detroit Tigers for $420,000*

Twitter handle: @willya02

* Signed along with Domingo Leyba ($400,000) despite each not making BA’s Top 20 International prospects list (Rays prospect C David Rodriguez was 14th on that list)

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked 1st Rays prospect pre-2015 (1st went to Blake Snell)
  • Ranked 84th Overall pre-2015
  • Ranked 4th best Florida state league prospect post-2015
  • Ranked 1st Rays prospect pre-2016
  • Ranked 46th overall pre-2016
  • Ranked 2nd best southern league prospect post-2016
  • Ranked 1st Rays prospect pre-2017
  • Ranked 10th overall pre-2017
  • Ranked 5th best international league prospect post-2017
  • Ranked 2nd Rays prospect pre-2018
  • Ranked 19th overall pre-2018

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 1
  • Low: 2

Willy Adames: Grades and Abilities

  • Outstanding makeup
  • Excellent fielder with strong arm (plays at SS and 3B)
  • Above-average hit tool
  • Developing power
  • Good speed and range

Grades for ‘18 (Pipeline): Hit: 55 | Pwr: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Fld: 60 | Overall: 55

  • Abilities: Although already a tremendous defensive SS, he also profiles well as a 3B in the future if need be. Was noted by BA as the best SS in the International League, where they also ranked him as the 5th best prospect in the league. His patience and selectiveness at the plate, along with great hand-eye coordination, allow scouts to feel confident he’ll be successful against MLB pitching.

Joined the Rays by way of...

Acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays, along with LHP Drew Smyly, from the Detroit Tigers in return for pitcher David Price on July 31, 2014.

Then Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had this to say when Adames was dealt to the Rays,

"We gave up a real good young player in Adames... This guy is a real good young player... We don't advertise him out there as being available," Dombrowski said. "But we really had talked about that if we were trading for David Price, he couldn't stand in our way."

Price wound up throwing 223.2 innings for the Tigers, putting up a 2.90 ERA and 1.122 Whip over 32 starts, good for 5.4 WAR valued at $19.75M (baseball ref) before being traded to the Blue Jays. It’ll be interesting to see how much WAR and value Adames builds up for the Rays over the start to his MLB career in comparison.

Before putting forward our expectations, let’s see what kind of accomplishments Adames has managed overall and in 2017.

Willy Adames: Facts, Honours, and Awards

  • Received rave reviews for his progress through the minors pre-2017 from Mitch Lukevics who put it this way,

"He's more consistent from the time that we saw him in Bowling Green to his year last year at Montgomery," Lukevics said. "He just has better strike zone awareness. He knows the different angles of a ground ball better. He uses his arm better, it's not as wild. It's under control more. He's improved in every area... His attitude, his aptitude, his work ethic — all the intangibles make Willy Adames stand out along with his skill... His ability to field a ground ball, to throw a baseball, to hit a baseball makes him a very unique player."

“In addition to having impact-type tools on offense and defense, Adames has an off-the-charts makeup”

  • And nothing exemplifies that makeup more than this quote from Adames himself

"It's like a dream coming true," he said. "I want to be here. I think I'm getting close. But I've got to keep working harder and harder."

  • Would it translate to a successful 2017 season? You be the judge! Within the International League - as one of its youngest players - finished 3rd in hits, 9th in doubles, t-6th in triples, t-19th in RBI, 6th in BB, and 9th in OBP. Here’s a summary of his stats for the season.


Willy Adames 2017 Stats

GP 130
GP 130
PA 578
AB 506
Hits 140
Doubles 30
Triples 5
Home Runs 10
RBI 62
SB (CS) 11 (5)
AVG 0.277
OBP 0.360
SLG 0.415
OPS 0.776
BB% 11.2%
SO% 22.8%
ISO 0.138
BAbip 0.354
wOBA 0.350
wRC+ 119

Stats Notes: Began 2017 slumping with a line of .230/.309/.344 through April/May. From that point onwards he hit .303/.389/.455 (.844 OPS), .380 wOBA and 139 wRC+. While working at SS the entire season, he committed 24 errors and was involved in 74 double plays.

Interesting Comparison: Francisco Lindor

Lindor is a switch-hitter, and he’s an inch shorter and 10 lbs lighter than Adames, but they’re both highly rated SS who were noted for their infectious positive personalities.

Willy Adames through 5 yrs in Minors:

  • 2378 PA / 116 DB / 36 Tr / 33 HRs / 302 BB / 545 SO / .268 AVG / .365 OBP / .409 SLG

Francisco Lindor through 5 yrs in Minors:

  • 1880 PA / 73 DB / 19 Tr / 21 HRs / 185 BB / 264 SO / .279 AVG / .354 OBP / .384 SLG

Francisco Lindor doubles / triples / home runs pro-rated to 2378 PA

  • 2378 PA / 92 DB / 24 Tr / 26 HRs

Note: This comparison isn’t an attempt to say Adames had a better minors career or that he’ll be as successful as Lindor in MLB. Noted differences include Lindor being a switch-hitter , walking and striking out less often, and possessing more speed. What is intriguing, however, is that prior to making the jump to MLB, Lindor received similar praise from scouts, including BA who noted the following:

“He has all the tools to be an above-average shortstop, with smooth hands and a strong arm. He has a knack for anticipation and the first-step quickness to always be in the right place at the right time. The team has long been enamored of his work ethic and leadership qualities.” [Baseball America]

He also received similar criticism in terms of lack of power:

“Power is the one tool that won't be Lindor's forte, though he did show more of it last season than ever before.”

The point being made here is that since then Lindor has worked his way to more power, and in 2017 he managed an impressive .232 ISO with 33 HRs. While asking as much from Adames is asking a lot, there’s little doubt he has the makeup and work ethic to make significant improvements in power, possibly exceeding everyone’s expectations as Lindor has done.

An example of his power potential can be seen in the following videos, the first of which is his first Triple-A HR, and the second is an example of how his power does play to all fields as he drives a pitch to right-center:

Willy Adames: Notes for 2018 and beyond

The Rays are in a great place when it comes to prospects and performances of their prospects at each level. That Adames sits atop these rankings, ahead of noted potential ace Brent Honeywell, speaks to how much talent he has and how much faith most people have that he’ll make the most of it.

Adames truly has the complete package you look for in a top prospect. Maturity beyond his years, an ability to rise to the challenge, physical abilities that allow for him to perform at an above-average standard, and a ceiling that has yet to be realized but seems to be extremely high. He’s the type of player that can become a franchise player and be looked for to lead the way both on and off the field.

While the Rays have locked up a few key guys with Chris Archer, and most recently Kevin Kiermaier, and they are always on the lookout for the next extension worthy player. It may not be long before they put an offer sheet in front of Adames.

In terms of playing time in 2018, he has proven to be ready for the challenge, outdoing what the recently called up Yankees SS prospect Gleyber Torres has done, leaving little doubt he’ll be called up shortly. With power coming through in games now, on base abilities, and great ABs each time out, Adames should be a positive force in the lineup.

The impact Adames could have when he does get the call to join the Rays should have every Rays fan extremely excited. It’s been quite a while since the Rays had a potential impact position player prospect to call upon, and he may be the best to come around since Longoria got the call in 2008.

Exactly a decade later, we may be welcoming the next face of the franchise.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Willy Adames: Spotlight Video

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 55 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list