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FSL notes: Rays' Adames shows his value

Stone Crabs shortstop proving his place as key piece in David Price deal
May 20, 2015

Drew Smyly's season has been cut short by a shoulder injury and Nick Franklin is just off the disabled list, giving the Tampa Bay Rays little Major League return this year from the trade of ace David Price last July.

Don't write off the deal as a dud just yet, though. The mystery piece in the three-team trade with Detroit and Seattle was Willy Adames, and the 19-year-old prospect may make things look a lot more equitable in a few years.

"You don't find many shortstops who can hit in the middle of the lineup," Charlotte manager Michael Johns said.

Adames had a four-hit performance May 16 for the Stone Crabs and had lifted his average to .304 through 33 games despite being one of the youngest position players in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.

The right-handed hitter had a .376 on-base percentage to go with a .456 slugging mark, and his batting average for May was .356.

A native of the Dominican Republic who received a bonus of $420,000 from Detroit in 2012, Adames didn't come to the United States until last year and wasn't highly touted going into last season.

But he was skyrocketing up the prospect charts with the Tigers when the Rays asked for him as part of any Price deal.

Johns had managed against Adames in the Class A Midwest League and stated his case with the Rays. Still, he didn't know all that the youngster brought until the switch from West Michigan to Johns' Bowling Green team.

"He was even better than I had thought," the manager said. "His tools speak for themselves. But it is his maturity and the way he goes about things that really set him apart."

When Adames -- Tampa Bay's No. 3 prospect and No. 74 on MLB.com's Top 100 list -- first heard of the trade, his world went spinning.

"I was very surprised. I started to cry," he said. "All I knew was my teammates. It was hard to go to a new team."

Although he still misses his family in the Dominican Republic, Adames is comfortable now, though, and determined to make the Price trade come out OK for the Rays.

"He's a great pitcher," Adames said. "It gives me more motivation. The trade makes me work even harder to get to the Major Leagues."

Work ethic is something that Adames isn't lacking. That is shown by how quickly he has been able to pick up English.

"When I came to the U.S. last year, I didn't know any," he 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."

"How far he's come learning on his own is amazing," Johns said.

Adames lives with fellow infield prospects Andrew Velazquez, recently sidelined by a broken hamate, and Kean Wong. That makes English necessary.

"They don't speak Spanish," said Adames, who turns 20 on Sept. 2.

Although clearly a quick study, Adames remains a work in progress on the field, too. He is now swinging more consistently at the correct pitches and making Florida State League pitchers pay. He has also shown the range to play shortstop and a rifle arm. It hasn't always been as accurate as Adames would like, resulting in most of his seven errors.

"It's my problem," he said. "I'm working hard to be more accurate."

That's Adames, always putting in the extra effort.

"It's a delight to manage him," Johns said. "He's fun to watch and helps make my job easy."

Charlotte was off to a 25-13 start and led the South Division by six games.

"This team is my new family now," Adames said.

In brief

Back in the bullpen: Daytona right-hander Nick Howard, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2014 Draft by Cincinnati, was moved to the bullpen after struggling with his control in his first five starts. He was a closer at the University of Virginia and fared better in his first two relief appearances with the Tortugas, pitching two hitless innings. Howard, the Reds' No. 3 prospect, was 2-2 with a 4.82 ERA as a starter, striking out 17 but walking 23 in 18 2/3 innings. In his first two relief appearances, he struck out two and walked one.

Still perfect: St. Lucie right-hander Robert Gsellman improved to 5-0 with a 4-1 victory at Palm Beach on May 18. The New York Mets' No. 28 prospect had taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning before giving up a lone hit to the Cardinals on May 4. This time he allowed six hits and the run. Gsellman, 21, struck out five and walked two. The 13th-round pick in the 2011 Draft has a 1.43 ERA in seven starts and a 0.91 WHIP. Gsellman was 10-6 with a 2.55 ERA in the Class A South Atlantic League last season.

Off to good start: Tampa's Tyler Wade is just 20, but the middle infielder has hardly been overmatched at the plate in the Florida State League. The fourth-round pick by the New York Yankees in the 2013 Draft was hitting .317 through 35 games with 13 stolen bases. A right-handed hitter, Wade was second in the league with 28 runs scored and had driven in 19 runs. He had a .350 on-base percentage and 22 stolen bases for Class A Charleston last year.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com.