In 2012, Adames signed with the Tigers (see Transactions below).
In 2014, Baseball America rated Willy as the 30th-best prospect in the Tigers organization.
But after being dealt to the Rays at the July 31, 2014 deadline, in the spring of 2015, Adames was named as the #1 prospect in the Tampa Bay farm system. And in 2016, Adames was rated second-best prospect in the Rays' organization.
But Willy was back at #1 prospect in the Rays' organization in the spring of 2017. He dropped to #2, behind only P Brent Honeywell, in the winter before 2018 spring training.
Adames has great baseball instincts. He loves to play the game and makes adjustments very quickly. His makeup is impressive and he has a great set of tools. He has a great personality with an infectious enthusiasm for the game.
Willy already speaks English well and wants to improve. He also displays true passion for the game and is willing to work hard at it. He connects with American players, as well as Latin guys.
"When I came to the U.S. (in 2014), I didn't know any (English)," Wily said. "Learning English is hard, but I kept trying. I learned the most from the other guys, watching TV or listening to music. I wanted to make sure I could fit in."
June 28, 2016: Adames was chosen to represent the Rays at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in San Diego.
July 9, 2016: Adames plays shortstop and looks like the next big thing in the organization. He came to the Rays from the Tigers in the 2014 David Price trade. Adames is known as a good athlete with good hands.
"Willy Adames has skills and intangibles," Rays director of Minor League operations Mitch Lukevics said. "At the ripe age of 20, he's at Double-A, way ahead of his age curve. Like I said, skills and intangibles. That's a wonderful combination."
Some have speculated that Adames will eventually shift to third base or second. When asked if Adames still projected as a shortstop, Lukevics replied, "Absolutely." (B Chastain - MLB.com - July 9, 2016)
Jan 18, 2017: Adames is one of 25 players taking part in the Rays' Winter Development Program at Tropicana Field. It was the eighth year of the program and a way for the team to monitor the offseason progress of its top prospects.
"We are able to bring them here and we have all eyes on them," said Rays Minor League director Mitch Lukevics. "We can help them, we can guide them so they are better prepared for Spring Training."
"Last season was amazing, the guys around me did well and we made the playoffs," Adames said. "I feel great, it's exciting to be on the 40-man roster and have an opportunity to go to big league Spring Training." Now Adames is ready to learn from some of the veteran players.
"I want to learn everything from them, because I'm a rookie and they have seen everything," Adames said. "They have a lot of good vibes around them and a lot of knowledge. I just want to listen and learn and get better at my job."
Lukevics said Adames has all of the tools necessary to be an everyday shortstop in the Majors.
"He has the intangibles, he has a wonderful attitude," Lukevics said. "His aptitude, his work ethic. He will be tested and time will tell, but he has all the intangibles. He has learned plate discipline and he's more under control. He can learn in every element of the game as a young 21-year-old should." (C Long - MLB.com - Jan 18, 2017)
Teammate Chris Archer invited Willy to come to Florida for five days training with him at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.
"I met Willy (spring of 2016) when he got called up for a day to play in a game and I could just see something in him, like in his eyes,” Archer said. “And when you get to know him, you can see it too, just this love and passion for the game. And I feel like that’s been missing a little. It inspired me, and I said, you know what, I want to help this kid however I can.”
Adames was appreciative of the invitation, and then the opportunity to work with the trainers on speed and position-specific agility drills.
“I’ve got no words,” said Adames, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. “I’ve been so grateful to him. He took time to show me around, to show me how to work harder . . . I love his attitude. I love how much work he puts in.”
Rays officials, who acquired Willy in the David Price trade, are impressed.
"His attitude, his aptitude, his work ethic—all the intangibles make Willy Adames stand out along with his skill,” farm director Mitch Lukevics said. “His ability to field a ground ball, to throw a baseball and to hit a baseball makes him a very unique player.” (Marc Topkin - Baseball America - 2/24/2017)
MLB debut (May 22, 2018): Willy made his debut at shortstop for the Rays.
Willy didn't take long to make an impression in The Show during the Rays' 4-2 loss to the Red Sox. The highly touted shortstop homered in his second at-bat, taking Boston ace Chris Sale deep to left in the fourth inning to get Tampa Bay on the board and cut the Red Sox's lead to 3-1. Wearing No. 1, he batted fifth.
"It was amazing," Adames said. "When you see all those guys on TV, then you come here and hit a bomb against Sale. Amazing. I can't tell you how happy I am right now, other than not getting the win."
And it almost didn't happen . . . Adames arrived about 30 minutes before game time. "They told me at 1:20 that I had a flight at 2:50, so I missed the first flight," Adames said. "I took the other flight at 3:30, and it was pretty crazy—I got here late."
"That was pretty special for him," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "The home run, the at-bats, the intensity. That's the second guy here recently who has come up, him and Christian Arroyo, who have definitely looked the part with the confidence."
Willy played well in the field too, starting two double plays and turning the pivot on another. (Chastain - mlb.com)
“It’s very exciting,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said in June 2018. “Willy has done nothing but make just positive impressions every time you see him, every time you talk to him . . . He’s just got that knack where he can come in and light up a room, light up a clubhouse. And we anticipate he’s going to do some special things and light up the field for us.”
May 9, 2020: Mothers Day.
Throughout his professional career, Willy Adames has established himself as one of the clubhouse leaders due to his outgoing personality and ability to communicate and be playful with all his teammates. Those qualities, added in with his actual performance on the field, is what Rays manager Kevin Cash calls the “it” factor.
Adames credits all of that to his mother, Ana Sobeida Luna.
“My mom is a really humble person,” Adames said. “She always taught me that you have to treat people with respect, especially older people. She taught us to be really simple and not fall in love with materialistic things.”
While the family won’t be spending Mother’s Day together this year, Adames and his mom will still be connected through FaceTime. In fact, it’s been Adames’ mother that has gotten him through meal prepping during his quarantine.
“My mom’s food is the best there is,” Adames said. “I cook with her on the phone. I can do it by myself, but at first it was my mom that would help me with everything.”
Adames and his mother talk every day and have always had a strong relationship. He acknowledges that he wouldn’t be in the big leagues had it not been for the support of his entire family. There were times that Adames wanted to return to the Dominican Republic and stop playing baseball, but his family wouldn’t let him.
That’s why when Adames finally reached the big leagues in 2018, the family shared a special moment inside their hotel room. A moment that Adames says he’ll never forget.
“You know, you go through a lot of rough times during the Minor Leagues,” Adames said. “But seeing that I had realized my dream, she just started crying. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.” –Juan Toribio
2020 Season: In 20 postseason games, Adames batted .136. If you were to watch Adames in the dugout or at shortstop, you wouldn’t know he’s struggled to find hits during the postseason because he always brings life and positivity to the Rays’ dugout. That is something valued heavily by management and higher-ups.
Adames is known as an emotional leader, he shows his emotions on the field and in the dugout but also doesn’t let his struggles get to him. Rays manager Kevin Cash was asked about Adames and the character he is,
“It’s rare for a player his age, but once you get to know Willy, his personality’s pretty infectious, there’s just people that have those traits where people just kind of flock to them, and Willy’s at the top of the list in our clubhouse, in our organization.”
Regular Season In Review—Brandon Lowe and Willy Adames were the two best Rays’ offensive players of the 2020 regular season.
Adames played 53 games this season out of his teams 60. In those 53 games, he slashed a .259 BA with a .813 OPS (23rd in AL).The Rays’ shortstop also slugged eight home runs (2nd on TB) and 23 RBI’s (3rd on TB). Willy also led the Rays with 15 doubles and was 2nd in hits with 48. Adames’ 24 XBH and 89 Total Bases ranks him 2nd on the Rays behind Brandon Lowe.
The Dominican Republic native had himself a solid defensive season as well. Carrying himself a .953 fielding percentage, with 9 errors and 53 putouts. Adames is more of a flashy shortstop making diving catches and run-saving plays which, unfortunately, doesn’t show up on the stat line but doesn’t go unrecognized.
Advanced Analysis—Adames had himself a pretty stellar 2020 season and these advanced stats certainly back it up. The Rays’ shortstop was tied for 12th in the MLB in Wins Above Replacement at 1.5.
Also, being in the 100th percentile in the MLB with a .388 BABIP, which calculates his batting average on balls in play. This measures how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits.
Adames’ .354 wOBA put him in the 69th percentile in the MLB. wOBA stands for weighted on-base average which measures a player’s overall offensive contributions per plate appearance. wOBA combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value.
Adames’ .222 ISO puts him in the 71th percentile in the MLB. ISO takes a player’s slugging percentage and minuses it by his batting average. ISO is a computation used to measure a batter’s raw power. (Dylan Loucks - Nov.5, 2020)
March 5, 2021: During his first week back in Spring Training with the Rays, Chris Archer quickly took stock of how much had changed during his brief time away. The guys he knew as young big leaguers had grown into regulars with significant postseason experience. And the fledgling shortstop he once took under his wing?
“Dude, I knew you when you were 20 years old. You’re 25 now,” Archer told Willy Adames. “You’re not the kid. You’re the adult.”
More than that, Adames is a leader. He has a natural ability to bring his teammates together, making him a central figure in the Rays’ clubhouse culture and a mentor for the big group of middle infield prospects currently in Major League camp.
Former Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics recognized Adames’ attitude and charisma long ago, nicknaming him “The Pied Piper” when he was still a young prospect. Outfielder Manuel Margot, who roomed with Adames while baseball was shut down last year, has another title in mind.
“I actually joke around with him saying that he's going to be the captain of this team one day,” Margot said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “He's the type of guy, it doesn't matter if he's playing your position or another position, he wants to help.”
Adames’ supportive spirit was on full display on the game’s biggest stage last October, when he was the first player out of the dugout for leaping forearm bashes with Brandon Lowe or a quick dance with Randy Arozarena. It’s not nearly as public on the fields of Charlotte Sports Park during morning infield drills, but the audience doesn’t change his attitude.
Does anyone have more fun than Adames?
“I just try to be a good teammate, and I want to help the guys that I can help, whoever I can help that is around me,” Adames said. “Especially if it's my own teammates, because I want them to get better. I want our team to be the best, so if I can help the guys to get better, I'm willing to do that.”
With an important group of talented, young middle infielders in camp, the Rays count on Adames to lead them by example. Adames modestly said there might not be much he can teach top prospect Wander Franco, but he’s willing to help wherever needed. And it’s clear those young players look up to him the way he admired Archer and Carlos Gómez when he broke into the big leagues.
Number 4 prospect Vidal Bruján said he’s picked up tips from Adames on how to make certain plays in the infield and how to play without feeling pressure. Greg Jones, Tampa Bay's No. 13 prospect, said he wants to see how Adames carries himself, so he can learn what it means to “act like a big leaguer.” Taylor Walls (No. 18 prospect) described Adames as the group’s “glue,” keeping the mood light while keeping them competitive. That is one part of their dynamic that could seem awkward: At some point, one of those young players will succeed Adames as the Rays’ starting shortstop. He’ll be eligible for salary arbitration next year, clubs have inquired about his availability in trades, and Tampa Bay is simply overflowing with talent up the middle. But Adames doesn’t look at it that way.
“I don't have to worry about somebody taking my job. I want them to get better,” he said. “They have to do their thing to get to the big leagues and stay there, and I have to do my thing to stay here and continue to get better. So I don't even think about that. I'm just another guy who tries to help the teammates.”
Professional scouting director Kevin Ibach first recognized those traits in Adames seven years ago, when he was a Rays scout and Adames was the key to Tampa Bay’s return for David Price at the 2014 Trade Deadline. In the initial report he filed, Ibach noted that Adames seemed to be a unifying presence for his Class A team. He got along with different groups of players and almost magnetically brought them together. In that regard, not much has changed in seven years.
“Coming up, he was a leader at every level and he was the guy in the clubhouse at every level,” manager Kevin Cash said. “So it's only natural that, eventually, he was going to do those things. I don't even know if Willy would say that he’s a leader in our clubhouse. I know there's a lot of people that would agree to that, but Willy is not trying to be anything other than himself.”
Adames has always been this way. He said was a little shy when he first joined the organization, uncertain of how to express himself in some situations and uneasy about potentially being perceived the wrong way if he misspoke. But he grew more comfortable as he continued to learn English and got to know his teammates.And his enthusiasm is untaught. You can’t coach or fake that.
“I just like to enjoy the game, and I like to play,” Adames said. “Whenever somebody is doing good, I enjoy that, too, because I want them to feel the same way when I'm hitting. I want the team to feel like that overall. I like to bring that energy. That just comes natural.”
Adames credited his parents for instilling that outlook in him. They imparted a sense of humility, too, with his father working every day to put food on the table and his mother taking care of him and his sister. When he reached the Majors, Adames said, he took care of his parents and told them they wouldn’t have to work anymore. When Adames posts pictures on Instagram, you’ll often see him use the hashtag #NoBookBag. That’s a translation of the Dominican phrase “no bulto,” the latter word translating directly to “bookbag,” but used to convey pretentiousness. So the hashtag is simply a reminder to stay humble.
“I'm just trying to play the most games I can and I'm just trying to do my best this year, because I know I can do more than what I've done in the past,” Adames said. “I haven't done my best, and I just want to have my best season and try to help the team go to the World Series again.”
To that end, Adames set out to improve over the offseason. As good as he was at the plate during the first half of last season, he struggled in September and then hit just .136 in the playoffs. Two weeks after the World Series ended with him striking out against Julio Urías, he traveled to Miami and went to work with hitting consultant Lorenzo Garmendia, who was endorsed by Mookie Betts. Hitting coach Chad Mottola said the changes could help Adames cover inside pitches better and use the whole field.
“I struggled, probably my worst-hitting two weeks or three weeks,” Adames said. “If a guy like Mookie comes to me, obviously, I'm going to do it. And I think he helped me a lot. I feel really, really comfortable now at the plate. I'm not there yet, but we're still working on it.”
Adames’ ongoing adjustments are a reminder that, with only three years and 291 games of Major League experience under his belt, he isn’t a finished product. But he is a leader in the clubhouse, a mentor in the middle infield and, to Archer’s delight, an adult in the room for the Rays.
“He sets the tone. He sets the standard for those guys,” Cash said. “They watch how he practices. They watch how he works. … He kind of leads that group and they watch the energy that he brings, and I think those young guys know, like, ‘If I'm going to be on this field with him, I’ve got to bring the same energy he does.’” (A Berry - MLB.com - March 5, 2021)
Entering 2021: In 291 career games, he’s been an above-average real life shortstop, compiling a 5.7 fWAR. For fantasy, he has been good but unspectacular with a .262 batting average, 38 career home runs and 12 stolen bases. For full season numbers, that comes out to about an average of 21 home runs and seven steals. Willy Adames, 2021 bat whisperer. Stuck in his first hitting slump since coming to the Brewers in a May 2021 trade with the Rays, Adames took to sweet-talking his beloved baseball bat in the early innings of a July 25, 2021 game. “My love, my love, let’s go, let’s go. Wake up,” Adames pleaded in Spanish, cradling the bat and kissing it.
Adames happened to be mic’d up for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball’s first visit to Milwaukee since 2013, so fans got a glimpse of the lengths to which players will go to snap a slump. Willy leads the Brewers in every hitting category since joining the team on May 22, but after going hitless in his first two at-bats in this game, he was 0-for-15 to begin Milwaukee’s homestand.
Then, a good break. Adames’ infield grounder in the sixth inning, initially ruled an error, was changed to an infield hit. The bats must have been listening. It’s not the first time Adames has provided dugout entertainment.
On the previous night, he climbed the dugout steps and riled up Milwaukee’s first sellout crowd in two years until Rowdy Tellez took a curtain call after his second home run of the night. And the night before that, Adames stopped Tyrone Taylor as the rookie outfielder went to the plate with the bases loaded and told him, “This is going to be your moment.” Taylor hit his first career grand slam. “Willy’s the man, man,” Taylor said.
“Willy's thinking about others as much as he's thinking about himself, and to me, that's leadership,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That's a great example.” (McCalvy - mlb.com - 7/25/2021)
- 2021 Season: Age 25: .262/.337/.481, .818 OPS, 25 HR, 120 OPS+, 4.2 bWAR, 4.1 fWAR, 119 wRC+, 28.1% K% 44.7% hard hit%, 11.4% barrel % bWAR /PA .0075, fWAR/PA .0074
Not much can be said about Willy Adames that hasn’t been said. The Brewers thrived as a result of his addition to the team. He recorded a career high in home runs, fWAR, bWAR, offensive runs above average, and OPS.
The numbers he recorded are even more impressive considering when he came to Milwaukee he was slashing .197/.254/.371 with a measly 76 OPS+ to go with his 75 wRC+. Once coming to Milwaukee he had slashed .285/.366/.521 with an OPS+ and wRC+ of 135. ( Josh Waldoch - Oct. 14, 2021)
In 2012, Adames signed with the Tigers out of the Dominican as an international free agent for $420,000, via scouts Aldo Perez, Ramon Perez and Miguel Garcia.
During the tryout, Willy wound up facing then-Detroit closer Jose Valverde after volunteering to jump into the batter’s box. That willingness to challenge himself and ability to relish big situations helped him have a smashing first season in the U.S. in 2014.
July 31, 2014: The Tigers dealt LHP Drew Smiley and SS Adames to the Rays. Then, the Rays traded David Price to the Tigers, the Mariners sent SS Nick Franklin to the Rays, and the Tigers sent CF Austin Jackson to the Mariners.
The Rays' attraction to Adames went beyond his physical tools. They also took into account his work ethic, the way he interacted with players and the way he carried himself. They were struck by how mature Adames was at just 18 years old.
The same is true today. It’s plain to see how at ease Adames is in Triple-A even as one of the league’s youngest players.
“Willy has skill and really good intangibles. He’s coachable,” Lukevics said. “His attitude’s good. His aptitude’s good. He’s always willing to work.” (Josh Norris - Baseball America - 7/07/2017)
- May 21, 2021: The Rays traded RHP Trevor Richards and SS Willy Adames to the Brewers for RHP Drew Rasmussen and RHP J.P. Feyereisen.