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Game Thread: Twins vs. Seattle, 4/10/21 @ 1:10pm

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Welcome back to the Twins Daily game thread party! After a rare Friday night off the Minnesota Twins will take on the Seattle Mariners t...
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Morneau

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I thought he was was really good last year. Maybe I'm on an opening day high (Not high) but he is so good.Who would have thought he would...
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The 5 Rule Draft

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This year's Rule 5 draft we lost Akil Baddo and Tyler Wells. So I thought I'd check to see how they were doing. 1st I checked on Baddo, h...
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Ex Twins in 2021: Where Are They Now?

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2021 MLB (non-Twins) Season news

Other Baseball Today, 09:54 AM
A thread for news from around Major League Baseball. Tonight in L.A., the Angels will forego their DH in order to let Shohei Ohtani both...
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Willians Astudillo Might Be Here to Stay

After a rough string of injuries to open the season, the Minnesota Twins have needed to dip into their depth. They may have unearthed a player who is ready to contribute.
Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
When Josh Donaldson was injured on his first plate appearance of the 2021 season, it suddenly shifted the entire plan for the Minnesota Twins roster. Suddenly Luis Arraez was thrust into an everyday role leaving behind a hole in the utility spot for the Twins.

Enter La Tortuga.

Now as the lone utilityman on the Minnesota Twins roster, Willians Astudillo was called to fill in mid-game for Luis Arraez on Monday afternoon, before starting at 3rd base on Tuesday. Since getting real playing time, Astudillo has appeared locked in at the plate. The utilityman went 3-for-4 with two doubles on Monday before backing it up with a 2-for-4 performance on Tuesday. Astudillo has racked up hits with some oomf, too, connecting with 3 balls deemed as “hard hits” of 95+ MPH, including two of them over 107 MPH.

Where there is always the most hesitation with Astudillo comes in the field, as he is able to play a multitude of positions, however you really aren’t super comfortable with him playing most of those positions. To this point, Astudillo has primarily played at third base, which suits his game well as 3rd base doesn’t require as much range as some of the other positions. Thus far, Tortuga has more than held his own at the hot corner, making the plays that he should make up to this point, and yet to look over-matched. Further, Astudillo’s ability to play catcher has allowed Rocco Baldelli the flexibility to use his catchers as pinch hitters on Monday and Tuesday, knowing that he has a third catcher he can utilize in a pinch, if needed.

Willians Astudillo burst onto the scene with the Minnesota Twins in 2018 as a July call-up, slashing .355/.371/.516 in 29 games. In the 66 games in which he has appeared since, though, Astudillo has posted an OPS of just .684. Astudillo has shown that he can make contact with the best of them, however his lack of patience at the plate has consistently prohibited him from putting together quality at-bats and capitalizing on pitches that he can drive. As a result, Astudillo was no slam-dunk to make the roster. Through his first handful of at bats in 2021, the Venezuelan utilityman has found pitches he can drive and shown the pop that he possesses when he gets pitches in the zone.

As with any article written 5 days into the baseball season, small samples are extremely dangerous to put any stock into. The very, very initial returns on Willians Astudillo at the plate, though, have been promising. Championship teams are built on depth, and while at full strength the Minnesota Twins will not need Astudillo, the first week of the season has shown us just how important depth can be.

What has been your first impression of Willians Astudillo in 2021? Do you think he could come into play as a key depth piece for the Minnesota Twins? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!

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28 Comments

The intangibles: the heart, the soul, the smile, the heft, the Turtle!He's our mascot.

    • glunn, Dman, PDX Twin and 4 others like this

Huge fan of La Tortuga. He can flat out hit and is a much needed spark plug for this team which will matter over a 162 game slog.

 

That being said.... the big determinant will be his ability/willingness to take walks.

 

Once the pitchers start giving him garbage to hit (and they will), he will need to prove he is willing to lay off and take the boring walk.

 

He is good but obviously not Kirby Puckett.... he cannot be an elite 'bad ball hitter'. 

    • glunn and Doctor Gast like this
I agree with D.C. Twins, La Torga need to learn how to lay off the garbage pitches. He is a great depth player! I'd like to see him pinch hit more than start at 3rd base!
    • D.C Twins likes this

I concur with DC Twins.If his eye at the plate improves he is a major league baseball player and IMO possibly a starter if the bat continues to play. 

 

HIs flexibility to play catcher is a huge bonus and his energy and ability to give 100% at all times is contagious.If the turtle can hunt pitches to hit he will always have a spot on the roster.As noted he has a very, very small sample size so will have to wait and see,

    • glunn and D.C Twins like this
Definitely like him on this team.

With guys like El Cherubo I sometimes wonder 'what if.' What if he really got himself into physical shape? What if he showed up one spring looking like an NFL running back, or even a reasonable facsimile thereof? He might find himself driving baseballs another twenty feet. He might find himself fast enough to steal some bases, fast enough to stretch more bases from hits. Fast and flexible enough to bare-hand that grounder and gun out the runner headed for first. 

 

How good could Willians Astudillo really be? Sometimes I wonder. 

    • Dman likes this
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ScrapTheNickname
Apr 06 2021 10:23 PM

 

Huge fan of La Tortuga. He can flat out hit and is a much needed spark plug for this team which will matter over a 162 game slog.

 

That being said.... the big determinant will be his ability/willingness to take walks.

 

Once the pitchers start giving him garbage to hit (and they will), he will need to prove he is willing to lay off and take the boring walk.

 

He is good but obviously not Kirby Puckett.... he cannot be an elite 'bad ball hitter'. 

Yup, over his career is now averaging one walk per 45 plate appearances! Why any pitcher would throw him a strike is beyond me. His batting average must, per the Law of Pitching, fall.

    • D.C Twins likes this

The guy cant flat out hit! Pitchers throw him hittable strikes either by him laying off ball or on there own he will be very good! 

His problem in the passed has always been him getting himself out, hitting balls he cant do any damage on.  

 

Where are all the people who said who said he doesnt have a place on this team?Has had to be used 3 of the 5 games thus far and has been great in all 3.Also was a factor in the Milkwaukee series allowing Rocco to use Jeffers as a pinch hitter.

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puckstopper1
Apr 07 2021 06:30 AM

I agree that the flexibility that Armadillo, er, um - Astudillo provides as a 26th man is a valuable commodity - especially when he provides some solid at bats.

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Doctor Gast
Apr 07 2021 06:43 AM
Many were down on Puckett when he 1st came up. They didn't like his high leg kick, being short and stocky etc. But he proved them all wrong and went to the HOF. I never take so called pundits serious. Astudillo has heart and a great contact hitter with power. He has a lot of determination to hit , which he swings at everything. Pitchers have capitalized on that. Last year because he contracted covid he never got prepared for 2020 or had the chance to work on his discipline. He was thrown into action cold which gave his critics plenty to criticize him on.
This year he's ready and has shown plate discipline. It's something he needs to work on continueously because that's not who he is. He covers the positions he plays adequately. I won't say he's the next Puckett be he is a valuable asset
    • Dman, D.C Twins and MN_ExPat like this

The dude is fun to watch!

    • PDX Twin, South Dakota Tom and MN_ExPat like this

 

Many were down on Puckett when he 1st came up. They didn't like his high leg kick, being short and stocky etc. But he proved them all wrong and went to the HOF. I never take so called pundits serious. Astudillo has heart and a great contact hitter with power. He has a lot of determination to hit , which he swings at everything. Pitchers have capitalized on that. Last year because he contracted covid he never got prepared for 2020 or had the chance to work on his discipline. He was thrown into action cold which gave his critics plenty to criticize him on.
This year he's ready and has shown plate discipline. It's something he needs to work on continueously because that's not who he is. He covers the positions he plays adequately. I won't say he's the next Puckett be he is a valuable asset

Puckett was also the third overall pick and was always a highly touted prospect who everyone knew would play in the show, at least because of his premium defense at a premium defensive position. Not so for Astudillo, who is almost 30, isn't even average defensively at any position and is almost exactly a league average hitter. OPS+ is 104. That's good for a utility guy, but don't compare him to a hall of famer. 

I love Astudillo and I’m so glad he’s on this team. As a side note, it’s so fun to have two utility guys who also happen to be perhaps the most passionate players on the team. Their joy for the game is so apparent.

If the Twins can find another player with a solid (if impatient) bat who can function as the team’s third catcher (a highly valuable trait that provides lots of flexibility), be a serviceable backup at two other positions (the corners), at least feasibly play all the other positions on the field except shortstop (the only position he hasn’t logged a major league inning at), and be an all-around awesome guy and fun player to watch, then I can’t wait to see him.
    • whosafraidofluigirussolo and Dman like this

I have to admit, I was ready to give up on WA. But, off to a good start hitting and has looked good defensively. Hope it continues.

    • Dman likes this
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Dodecahedron
Apr 07 2021 11:13 AM

Astudillo provides value beyond the stat sheet. But just as it's annoying when people have visceral reactions against him based on a small sample size, it's equally annoying when we anoint him anything based on a small sample size too.

 

I envision Astudillo's career forward will be much like his career thus far. He will be inspiring. He will be good. He will be bad too. In any case, he deserves his time on the team.

    • Dman likes this

Having someone around like Astudillo, who can competently fill in the gaps, is certainly valuable.Even if he is only slightly above replacement level, that would be good enough for the role he is currently playing (third catcher/second utility player/Josh Donaldson insurance plan). 

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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 07 2021 02:32 PM
I neither get the adoration nor the condemnation of Astudillo. He’s a fun statistical oddity because his contact skills and refusal to walk are both so far at the extreme end of baseball but that also means he’s a pretty flawed baseball player, never mind his defense...

But if he can hit at or above .300, he’s a pretty useful piece on the bench. I remain unconvinced that will be the case but I hope he can do it.
    • Dman and Matthew Taylor like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Apr 07 2021 04:06 PM
For the last man on a roster, he is a valuable asset. As a spark plug, motivator, and fan favorite he is invaluable. If the dude hits, he deserves it. Tortuga! Tortuga!! Tortuga!!!
    • Dman likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Apr 07 2021 07:29 PM
I’ve never been a big fan of Astudillo, But he certainly has been valuable so far this year. My issue with him was always that we should have somebody better but we don’t. I’d rather have a young infielder on his way up they can play multiple positions but we don’t really have that guy in the system, at least not yet. Maybe the thought was that Royce Lewis would be that guy this year before he got hurt. Anyway, no need to take deep thoughts on this. He’s not Mr. Right, he’s more Mr. Right Now, and right now it’s good we have him. Hopefully over time we will replace him with someone better.
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 07 2021 07:38 PM

 

I’ve never been a big fan of Astudillo, But he certainly has been valuable so far this year. My issue with him was always that we should have somebody better but we don’t. I’d rather have a young infielder on his way up they can play multiple positions but we don’t really have that guy in the system, at least not yet. Maybe the thought was that Royce Lewis would be that guy this year before he got hurt. Anyway, no need to take deep thoughts on this. He’s not Mr. Right, he’s more Mr. Right Now, and right now it’s good we have him. Hopefully over time we will replace him with someone better.

I think that's a really unrealistic expectation, especially in the case of an elite prospect like Royce. The Twins aren't going to ping-pong someone like that around the field defensively when their goal is for him to master a single position (ideally shortstop), nor are they going to risk his struggles to learn new positions impacting his ability to hit MLB pitching.

 

Like Kirilloff, when Lewis arrives in Minnesota, he's going to play one position and he's going to play it every day.

 

The reality of baseball is that when it comes to the 25th or 26th man on the roster - which Astudillo is - if you can find a player that's merely decent to fill that role, you likely have a very good roster.

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Don't Feed the Greed Guy
Apr 07 2021 07:46 PM
Astudillo's ability to put the ball in play also makes him an ideal pinch hitter with runners on base.

Runner on second, no outs, tie game? How often will that happen with MLB's extra innings rule?

Enter La Tortuga. Contact, even weak contact, moves the runner from second to third.

Yes, Astudillo doesn't draw walks, but in this situation, moving the lead runner with contact is more important than drawing a walk and setting up a potential double play.

Utilizing Astudillo's high-contact bat is likely the better tactic in a pinch.
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Don't Feed the Greed Guy
Apr 07 2021 07:46 PM
Astudillo's ability to put the ball in play also makes him an ideal pinch hitter with runners on base.

Runner on second, no outs, tie game? How often will that happen with MLB's extra innings rule?

Enter La Tortuga. Contact, even weak contact, moves the runner from second to third.

Yes, Astudillo doesn't draw walks, but in this situation, moving the lead runner with contact is more important than drawing a walk and setting up a potential double play.

Utilizing Astudillo's high-contact bat is likely the better tactic in a pinch.
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South Dakota Tom
Apr 07 2021 09:14 PM

He is also, reportedly, a king of the clubhouse.  Keeping everyone happy (even if not as happy as he is!) is a real value, and all reports are that he excels in that area.  Chemistry, stress reduction, social lubrication, comic relief. I don't care what you call it, he's the kind of guy you want on your side.

 

 

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LA VIkes Fan
Apr 08 2021 02:51 PM

 

I think that's a really unrealistic expectation, especially in the case of an elite prospect like Royce. The Twins aren't going to ping-pong someone like that around the field defensively when their goal is for him to master a single position (ideally shortstop), nor are they going to risk his struggles to learn new positions impacting his ability to hit MLB pitching.

 

Like Kirilloff, when Lewis arrives in Minnesota, he's going to play one position and he's going to play it every day.

 

The reality of baseball is that when it comes to the 25th or 26th man on the roster - which Astudillo is - if you can find a player that's merely decent to fill that role, you likely have a very good roster.

I agree with your premise, Brock, I just don't share your assessment of Astudillo as decent. I do have to say though that I might be changing my assessment. HIs .268/.299.379 (.750) line in 2019 didn't do much for me when coupled with his below average defense no matter where he plays. I've always felt like the utility guy(s) should either be a veteran who is a better than just adequate hitter or a better than average glove, or a young guy on his way up being versatile to stay on the roster. I don't think Astudillo was either in 2019 or 2020.I will say though, he has been a better than average bat this year and is definitely worth having on the team if he can hit like this despite his defensive shortcomings. Frankly, at this point he's not even the 26th man, Cave or the 9th RP is. It will be interesting to see who goes when Donaldson is ready to come back. Injuries will probably make that decision for us but if not, I have to say I wouldkeep Astudillo and Garlick and choose between that 9th RP and Cave to go. 

The Turtle is a figure out of Grimm. Out of THE WILD BUNCH. He is the one player on this team that's consistently paradoxical and amusing. He is a secret weapon, non-Darwinian, he has mythic Yogi Berra-like qualities, the *dummling who everyone laughs at for being a primitive, but has an aura of luck about him that's endearingingly absurd.