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My first prediction is that WA signs their two big possible FAs to extensions.   My next is that Cole goes to LAA.   The White...
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Let's Talk About Willians Astudillo

There’s a certain phrase in the Braun family household that gets tossed around often. We (somewhat) affectionately like to call each other a “fun sucker” if someone does something in the realm of sucking fun. It’s hard to specifically identify what would constitute a reason for such a phrase to be uttered, but when it’s time, we all know. So, allow me to be a fun sucker for a few minutes here.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
It seems like we all have an affinity for baseball players who are more rotund than the trim beefcakes we come to expect from the sport. There’s certainly something to be said about an athlete who looks like someone you would see at a Golden Corral who also somehow is playing a sport at the highest level possible.

Knowing this, when Willians Astudillo made his major league debut in 2018 and made waves by actually hitting well, never striking out or walking, and hauling ass around third base to help beat the Yankees, it seemed like we would be telling stories about his greatness for a while.

This past season was a much different story for Astudillo. The health of Jason Castro and break out of Mitch Garver ensured that any playing time was going to be scarce for Astudillo and he would have to take on a somewhat super utility role in order to claw his way into the starting lineup. But even when he was able to find playing time at the major league level, he was not cutting it at the plate.

A player like Astudillo exemplifies the fact that there is a difference between “hitting the ball” and “being a good hitter”. Dads across the world will argue this fact but we know through analytics that getting on base and slugging are even more important measures of a hitters ability than batting average or “putting the ball in play”. Miguel Sanó struck out over 36% of the time last season and nearly doubled Astudillo’s wRC+ because he also walked a ton and slugged the ball to the moon.

Speaking of wRC+, Astudillo’s last year was a paltry 76. Keep in mind that wRC+ points are equal to percentage points with 100 being average, so Astudillo was 24% worse than the average hitter in 2019. Set the minimum to 200 plate appearances and you’ll find that Astudillo was the 305th best hitter in baseball last year around names like Elvis Andrus, Dee Gordon, and Cheslor Cuthbert. While this is literally quite the collection of names, they aren’t ones that you want to be associated with as far as your ability to hit go.

What crushed Astudillo was that he started to increase his rate of softly hit balls which is not really something you want to do as a hitter. His soft hit rate jumped from 14.3% in 2018 to 22.6% in 2019 which is the 24th worst among all hitters with at least 200 PA. His hard hit rate stayed relatively the same but the increase in softly hit balls was a major reason for his regression.

The thing about swinging at everything is that teams will eventually realize that you will literally swing at everything. Really, this entire article could be just that sentence but I digress. Teams adjusted to this play style and Astudillo saw way fewer first pitch strikes in 2019 while staying about as aggressive as he has always been. Until that changes, he is going to struggle in the majors.

Astudillo will likely not be a major factor in the catcher rotation with Mitch Garver becoming Mike Piazza and Alex Avila taking over as the veteran with excellent defense. He will be aided by the roster expanding to 26 men but I would be hesitant to write his name down in permanent ink as he will spend more time in Rochester if the bat stays the same as it did in 2019. Personally, I do like Astudillo as an interesting counter off the bench late in the game against great stuff relievers as he will be unfazed as whatever kitchen sink they throw at him. But such a role is too niche for a roster with limited spots and a pragmatic front office.

I do apologize again for being a fun sucker, but as a non-prospect 28-year-old with an exploitable gimmick, Astudillo is closer to being DFA’d than being an everyday player on the Twins going forward.

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  • BigSkyTwinsFan, Oldgoat_MN, Dman and 2 others like this

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43 Comments

Well said...I agree with everything....and yet I look back at his picture and imagine him running the bases and I just can't stop smiling....so I really have no chance of a rational opinion :)

    • glunn, Blake, BigSkyTwinsFan and 13 others like this

Astudillo is probably the most meme-able? player in a long time.He is legit fun to watch because of his size and antics.To bring Twins lore into it he feels like watching a gigantic Luis Castillo/ Denard Span. 

 

The problem is pure contact guys (which he is an extreme example of) are valuable because they are OBP machines.They excel by getting on base through patience/ walks, speed/ infield hits, being able to steal, and being plus defenders at premium positions.Tortuga really only has the put the ball in play attribute + he can kinda play catcher.

 

Its almost a shame he wasn't around for the Gardy years because he would have got a ton of run and made a lot of fun moments.

 

 

Wow are we desperate!Good old Willians (did I spell that right) fills in on lots of levels.If nothing else goes well we can write about the turtle.  

 

Yes he is valuable to the FO, yes he is fun to write about.Go Mr Astudillo, because right now the winter meetings are over and we have nothing else to write about. 

I wonder what the average wRC+ is for a back up catcher? I have no idea but I am going to guess 76 is not that far off. He HAS to start swinging at strikes.Hopefully he can adjust because watching baseball is more fun when he is playing. 

    • Oldgoat_MN and DocBauer like this

I don't know if I would call him "gimmicky", as that seems a bit like an indifferent back hand to the abilities he does possess. However... I can't disagree with the rest.  

 

I too love La Tortuga. He's just fun to watch, as I think we all love to cheer for the "Everyman" :). It would be great if he could take a page from Arraez's play book and just learn to take a little more control of the strike zone even a little better (yes I know, waaaaay easier said than done), as that would make him that much more valuable. As it is, he's likely more vulnerable at the plate than not.

 

So here's to hoping that he adjust to the league now and we can keep chanting... Viva Tortuga!!!

    • glunn, Sconnie, DocBauer and 1 other like this

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You having issues with posts also?

 

You having issues with posts also?

No, this was my fault ... I broke it ... Ted's article on the FO ... the comments on the front page are broken. But this one on Astudillo is fine. But you can comment on Ted's article in the forum, just not from the home page. :(

    • MN_ExPat likes this

 

No, this was my fault ... I broke it ... Ted's article on the FO ... the comments on the front page are broken. But this one on Astudillo is fine. But you can comment on Ted's article in the forum, just not from the home page. :(

Ahh, no worries, it happens. I promise I won't tell anyone ;).

    • Sconnie likes this
  • Like every young player (meaning limited mlb experience)in the league he has to make adjustments.  If he can adjust and pick out better pitches to swing at And lay off the ones you can’t hit well he will succeed.  Especially before you have 2 strikes. Inconsistent at bats and limited playing time doesn’t help.
     I think he has to stick and show he can be a serviceable catcher defensively.  The defensive versatility is nice but his ability to catch will keep him in this league.
  • he has an option year left go down and be the everyday catcher at AAA.  Work on strike zone management be ready when injuries occur.  We won’t have 2 catchers who stay completely health again like in 2019.  I believe in him and more then a fun “gimmick” make an adjustment work at it and your be great

 

 

 

    • glunn, Dman, bighat and 2 others like this
His elite contact skill plays. Pitchers adjusted. Pounded him down down down then threw him out after the ball rolled directly back to them. He can hit anything. Really the only pitch he needs to lay off of is that ball in the dirt. He doesn't swing and miss which means he actually has a good eye and recognition. He just hasn't used that eye to command the strike zone. It's grossly unfair to assume that a player with his natural ability won't be able to adjust. He's already made a huge adjustment by adding power to his game. And he looked better when he returned at the end of the year. I feel he's underestimated.
    • Dman, DocBauer, bighat and 2 others like this

Tortuga's a fine 3rd catcher, and I actually think he's decent behind the plate. He's got options, so he's the perfect type of guy to rotate to AAA when need be.

 

I think Astudillo will rebound from his mediocre 2019 season. I don't think he'll hit over .300 again, but I think he won't be swinging so recklessly this time around.

    • bighat and MN_ExPat like this

"It seems like we all have an affinity for baseball players who are more rotund than the trim...."

 

I must not be a "we". I never get it, myself. I sure hope we can do better than Astudillo in 2020. 

    • jud6312 likes this
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operation mindcrime
Dec 13 2019 02:25 AM
Why? Let's not and say we did!

"It seems like we all have an affinity for baseball players who are more rotund than the trim...."

I must not be a "we". I never get it, myself. I sure hope we can do better than Astudillo in 2020.

Nope, your not. So say we all.

You make me sad Sir, but so be it. ;)
    • Sconnie likes this
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yeahyabetcha
Dec 13 2019 06:20 AM
His value is as a candidate for the versatile bench player. Will likely battle with the likes of Wade, Raley, Gordon etc for a spot on the 26 man roster
    • wabene likes this

Fine as a 3rd catcher, guy with an option who can go down to AAA and rotate in that 26th spot. I have absolutely no issues with Astudillo playing on this Twins team as long as he earns his spot. I think he will. He brings a certain flare to the game and I think his teammates have a bit more fun playing when he's in the lineup. I know that "being a fun player that increases your teammates' joy" doesn't necessarily show up in WAR, but I think it matters. At least a little bit. I'll always cheer for Willians and hope he gets at least a chance to show if he can improve.

    • jorgenswest, Mike Sixel, LA VIkes Fan and 5 others like this
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NapoleonComplex
Dec 13 2019 06:53 AM

I've never understood articles that criticize a player who will essentially be a 3rd catcher and utility guy. The 26th man on the roster who will spend more time in Rochester than in Minnesota gets a special level of scrutiny. Astudillo has a unique skill set that allows Baldelli to give nearly every starter a day of rest on a rotating basis. He can also come off the bench and put the ball in play when it needs to be in play. How often have we watched a guy on third with one out get stranded?

 

I don't disagree with any of the factual statistics in the article. It just boggles my mind how much scrutiny a player like Astudillo endures simply because he became a fan favorite. It's such a Minnesota sports thing to do.

    • ken likes this

I'm glad someone else is taking the torch on this one.

 

Tortuga is a fine player to have on a losing team - he's quirky, rubes love him, and his shenanigans could distract from a bad on-field product.

 

But I'd hope a team that at least appears to be a contender can do better - even for their 26th roster spot.

 

In addition to the offensive numbers mentioned in the post, he was actually a below average defender at every position he played last year. (Unless I'm reading the numbers wrong.) Versatility is great, if you're good or even average at the positions. But simply being able to occupy space while breathing isn't what I'd call versatility.

 

He's got an option left. Use it. Let him play in Rochester to see if he can become more selective at the plate (his career would tell me it won't happen) and if he can actually become viable somewhere in the field. And if the worst case scenario happens - Garver, Avila, Jeffers all injured - you've got him there to hopefully not derail the team.

    • h2oface, LA VIkes Fan and adorduan like this
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killertwinfan
Dec 13 2019 08:19 AM
I can’t argue with anything written, however there are a couple of points I would like to add to the debate. Astudillo is a little injury prone and given Garver’s past injuries a reliable back up is critical. I think you can also argue that Astudillo was injured last year which lead to the soft ball stats. He is also a bit of a statistical anomaly and adds to team chemistry. He does have an option so sure send him down but if Garver can’t catch for extended periods of time the Twins will want Tortuga’s bat and the fans will bark at the listless Avila. The last point is that the defensive catcher is becoming less prevalent and the flexibility of Tortuga will prevail. Personally I thing the fanfare around the Avila signing is silly and very likely to show little or no value.

I pretty much agree with this article, except for one small caveat: there is additional value to someone like Astudillo in a close & late situation where you really do just need someone to get the ball in play. Is it the best use of a roster spot? Probably not, but with Astudillo's positional flexibility it wouldn't take a massive adjustment in his hitting approach for him to be a useful pinch hitting utility guy. I think that's where the expectation should be.

    • wabene likes this

Love La Tortuga.With that said, think his best role for next year is either as the 26th player or at AAA where he is a phone call away should one of the catchers be injured.

 

Don't know what effect his personality has in the dugout, as it seemed they wanted him around last summer while an injury extended until the Sept.1 roster date.

    • Dman and wabene like this

 

Nope, your not. So say we all.

You make me sad Sir, but so be it. ;)

 

..... you're not.....

    • Nine of twelve likes this
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Parker Hageman
Dec 13 2019 10:50 AM

Here's the thing that you have to account for in Willians Astudillo:

 

He has played non-stop baseball games basically since 2014. His cycle goes spring training --> regular season ---> winter ball --> spring training without a real off-season recovery break like a lot of the regulars have had. 

 

As a 26-27 year old, he played 108 games between ROC/MIN, another 23 in Venezuela (where he caught less), another 17 games in March and another 16 games in April for the Twins. He hit in all those stretches. He demolished winter ball, hit well in the Grapefruit and then started the season hot. I honestly believe that when May came along he was burnt out and the strained oblique muscle may have been no surprise (given his propensity to play, I'm sure he hid it for a while too). 

 

I'm confident he's better than the stat line he produced in May that dragged his overall 2019 numbers down but not as good as his April numbers were.  

 

It's nice to see him taking a winter off (his first since he was 22 years old). 

    • nicksaviking, Danchat, NapoleonComplex and 5 others like this

I can see him here in Minnesota for the next 3 seasons.His career wont be long 4 to 6 seasons max.He is a solid 3rd string C that can play other positions.if he can OPS close to .700 he is OK as a back up.adding C means he can get away with a .680 OPS and still be valuable.I put the over / under on career at bats at 1500. 

 

I just hope he gets to do something fun in a World Series while he is on the team.That way he will be remembered forever in Minnesota.

    • Dman likes this