Willy likes to spend time during the offseason in the Dominican Republic visiting the mountains and experiencing nature...He traveled to Europe for 11 days last winter, stopping in London, Paris, Belgium and Spain… he especially liked the Eiffel Tower and seeing places he'd only known on television and in movies as a kid…he also had the chance to see the U.S. men's soccer team while in London...His favorite movie is The Longest Ride and he read the original book by Nicholas Sparks last offseason...You could often find Willy in the dugout during games last season busting out dance routines with Ji-Man Choi and former Rays outfielder Carlos Gómez...For years, Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics has called Willy "The Pied Piper" because of his attitude, talent, work ethic and leadership ability...While playing for Class-A Charlotte, Willy lived with teammates Andrew Velazquez and Kean Wong…he credits them for helping him pick up English so quickly...As a kid, Willy and his friends loved to play down by the river…he would occasionally sneak out of the house at night to go there despite being caught multiple times
Appeared in 85 games and made 80 starts (72-SS, 8-2B) over three stints with the Rays, his first career major league action…took over as the starting shortstop after Adeiny Hechavarria was designated for assignment on Aug 1…led the team in starts at shortstop...Ranked among AL rookie leaders in avg. (.278, 4th), on-base pct. (.348, 3rd), multi-hit games (22, tied for 7th) and walks (31, 7th)...Named to the Topps Major League All-Rookie Team, the first Rays shortstop to earn the honor...Was the second rookie middle infielder in franchise history to hit double-digit homers, following Brendan Harris (12) in 2007...Eight of his 10 HR came with the bases empty, and seven of his 10 HR came at home...Committed a team-high 14 errors…his 13 errors at shortstop tied for 5th-most in the AL...Entered August batting just .200 (23-for-115), but from Aug 1 through season's end started 47 of the team's 55 games at shortstop…hit .329/.405/ .480 (47-for-173) during that span, tops among AL rookies in avg. and 4th in the AL, trailing BOS Mookie Betts (.363), BOS J.D. Martinez (.346) and CLE Michael Brantley (.337)...Made his major league debut on May 22 vs. BOS…at 22 years, 262 days, became the youngest position player to make his major league debut for the Rays since Wil Myers on June 18, 2013 at BOS and youngest infielder since Reid Brignac on July 4, 2008 vs. KC…became the youngest shortstop to homer in his major league debut since CHC Starlin Castro (20 years, 44 days) on May 7, 2010 at CIN…at the time, was the 3rd-youngest player in the AL, behind NYY Gleyber Torres and BOS Rafael Devers...Homered off Chris Sale in his second career at-bat, becoming the fifth Ray to homer in his major league debut, following Brandon Guyer on May 6, 2011 at BAL, Elijah Dukes on April 2, 2007 at NYY, Delmon Young on Aug 29, 2006 at CWS and Brent Abernathy on June 25, 2001 at BOS… also became the first player, Rays or visitor, to homer at Tropicana Field in his first career game...On Aug 7 vs. BAL, hit a walk-off home run off Miguel Castro, becoming the fifth player in club history to hit one before his 23rd birthday…he joined Jake Bauers (2018), Evan Longoria (2008), Delmon Young (2007) and Carl Crawford (twice in 2003)…it was the fourth walk-off homer in Rays history by a shortstop, following Ben Zobrist (2012), Reid Brignac (2010) and Kevin Stocker (1998)...Totaled 5 HR and 5 SB in August…was the third rookie in franchise history with at least 5 HR and 5 SB in a calendar month, joining Desmond Jennings in August 2011 and Damon Hollins in May 2005...Played in 40 games for Triple-A Durham prior to his first recall, and another 24 games spanning two stints after his major league debut...On April 23 vs. Buffalo (Blue Jays), hit for the cycle in an 8-1 victory…it was his first career cycle, and the second for Durham since they became a Rays affiliate in 1998, joining José Guillén on April 22, 2000…it was the 10th cycle in the history of the Rays organization, first since Evan Longoria for the Rays on Aug 1, 2017 at HOU, and the eighth by a Rays minor leaguer, first since Grant Kay on July 14, 2014 with Short-A Hudson Valley.
Spent his age-21 season with Durham…was the third-youngest player on an International League Opening Day roster, behind 20-year-old Ozzie Albies (Gwinnett) and teammate Jake Bauers (21)... Named Most Valuable Player for Durham by the Rays Baseball Operations department…tied for 3rd in the IL with a team-leading and careerhigh 140 hits, surpassing his 133 hits in 2016 with Double-A Montgomery…also led the team with 5 3B and 210 total bases... His 62 RBI and .277 avg. were both career highs... Named to the IL midseason All-Star Team, his third consecutive year receiving midseason AllStar honors... From the start of June through the end of the season, hit .303/.389/.455 (98-for-323) with 8 HR and 41 RBI in 84 games…through the first two months, was batting .230/.309/.344 (42-for-183) with 2 HR and 21 RBI in 46 games... Named the Rays Minor League Hitter of the Month for June, batting .350/.449/.550 (35-for100) with 5 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR and 12 RBI... According to Baseball Reference, did not have a single plate appearance against a pitcher younger than him... Named to the Rays Organizational All-Star Team by MLB.com... Ranked by Baseball America as the No. 19 overall prospect in the minors following the season… was the No. 2 prospect in the Rays system and No. 5 prospect in the IL…the publication also tabbed him as the Best Defensive Shortstop and Best Infield Arm in the IL in its Best Tools survey... Ranked by Baseball America as the Best Defensive Infielder in the Rays organization for a fourth consecutive year…also tabbed as the Best Infield Arm in the system.
Spent his age-20 season with Double-A Montgomery…established career highs in games (132), runs (89), hits (133), doubles (31), home runs (11), stolen bases (13), walks (74) and SLG (.430). Led the Southern League in runs and walks…also ranked among league leaders in doubles (3rd), extra-base hits (3rd), OBP (4th), SLG (5th) and total bases (3rd). Named to the SL midseason and postseason All-Star teams. All 112 starts came at shortstop. Had 4 HR through the end of April, matching his output from the season prior with Charlotte. Hit .324/.407/.602 (35-for-108) with 6 HR and 20 RBI vs. LHP. According to Baseball Reference, had only 6 PA against pitchers younger than him…had 562 PA against older pitchers. Was the starting shortstop for the World team in the Futures Game in July at Petco Park. Ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 over-all prospect in the minors entering the 2017 season…was the No. 1 prospect in the Rays or-ganization and the No. 2 prospect in the SL, behind Dansby Swanson (Braves), following the 2016 season…the publication also tabbed him as the Best Defensive Infielder in the system for the third straight season.