Top Rays Prospect Willy Adames Homers in First MLB Game

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He’s the Rays’ No. 2 prospect—ranked 22nd in all of Minor League Baseball—and he’s already making his presence known in his MLB debut Tuesday night. 

With Adeiny Hechavarria injured and Joey Wendle on paternity leave, the Tampa Bay Rays had a shortstop hole.

To fill it, Tampa called up Willy Adames, the team’s No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to make his big league debut on Tuesday night against Chris Sale and the Red Sox. 

Adames started producing right away, hitting a homer in his second MLB at-bat. 

Adames is MLB Pipeline’s fifth-ranked shortstop prospect. He started the game batting fifth and playing short at Tropicana Field. 

Adames was a staple in the middle infield of the reigning Triple A champion Durham Bulls in 2017, serving as the everyday shortstop and slugging .277/.360/.415 with 10 home runs and 62 RBI across 130 games in the Bull City. His average, OPS and RBI numbers were all top-20 in the International League, a circuit where gaudy hitting numbers are usually rare, and he finished with the third-most hits and fifth-most total bases among league regulars. He’s been even better in his second stint in AAA, delivering a .311/.387/.466 line with four homers and 25 RBI in his first 40 games. This year he ranks sixth in RBI, seventh in average and eighth in total bases, and he hit for the cycle in a game last month.

A 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, Adames has quickly climbed the minor league ladder every year he’s been in the Rays’ system. After Tampa Bay acquired him in a trade in 2014, he reported to Class A Bowling Green, but shortly moved up to A Advanced Charlotte in 2015, AA Montgomery in 2016, and finally Durham in 2017. He’s been named a League Mid-Season All-Star in each of the last three years, and was a Southern League Postseason All-Star and MLB Futures Game selection in 2016.

It’s not a stretch to say Adames had the talent and the pedigree to contend for a Rays roster spot on Opening Day (he hit .364 with a pair of homers and six RBI in ten Spring Training games), but while the Rays have been ambitious with his development, they’ve been cautious with his promotion. While this week will clearly provide the infield prospect with plenty of chance to shine, he won’t be in the Sunshine State for long—at least for now. Hechavarria is on the disabled list after he strained his hamstring last Thursday against the Angels, and Wendle was placed on the paternity list, not the DL, slated to return within the week. Adames’s audition will be a brief one, Rays manager Kevin Cash said today, according to the Tampa Bay Times

“He’s going to play two or three of the next days. I’m not sure how long Joey is going to be gone, but anticipate definitely today and tomorrow, and then we’ll kind of see where we go from there,” Cash said.

“And then Willy’s going to go back. But saying that, we’re excited to have him up here. The clubhouse is excited, the staff’s excited, the front office. Everybody is excited. We’ve talked about this for quite some time. Lot of questions are always asked about Willy because he is such a talented player. And now we’re going to get to see him for a couple days come up here and do his thing.”

Adames will certainly be familiar with some of his new, temporary Tampa Bay teammates: second baseman Daniel Robertson, right fielder Johnny Field, center fielder Mallex Smith and Tuesday’s starting pitcher Jake Faria were all featured on the Bulls’ 2017 roster at one point or another, while third baseman Christian Arroyo debuted in Durham this year before his big league call up earlier this month. And though they haven’t played together, Adames also has a connection with the starting pitcher he’ll probably go up against if he’s back in the lineup on Wednesday: David Price, who the Rays sent to the Tigers in a 2014 three-team trade that netted them Willy Adames in return.

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