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Willians Astrudillo might be the second coming of an equally unheralded catcher that won the Twins a championship




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Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch



12/13/1988: The MLB transactions for the Minnesota Twins had one line: The Twins signed free agent catcher Brian Harper to an one year contract worth $90,000. The Twins were the sixth franchise for Harper who was drafted by the California Angels in the 4th round of the 1977 MLB June Amateur Draft, traded to the Pirates and then the Cardinals who released him on April Fool's 1986, and then signed and released by the Tigers and A's in single year assignments.


Harper was an intriguing guy. He hit .353/.403/.653 as a 28 year old in AAA Portland before the Twins brought him up to finish the season with the big club, hitting .295/.344/.428 with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts in 184 plate appearances. Harper became the Twins starting catcher in 1989 and held that post until 1993. His tenure with the Twins included an otherworldly .381/.435/.476 slash line in 26 World Series plate appearances in 1991, the best World Series ever.


Fast forward about 30 years: November 25, 2017: The Twins sign 26 year old Willians Astrudillo as a minor league free agent. After a stint in AAA, like Harper, Astrudillo made it to the bigs, where there were a lot of accolades, regarding his low walking and strikeout percentage, and about his lack of being a "three outcome guy". Astudillo's line last season ended up being .355/.371/.516 with a 2.1 BB% and a 3.1 K%. In 1991 Brian Harper ended the season with a 3.0 BB % and a 4.7 K%. Both were about his career average for the Twins.


After 1993 strike Harper moved on and ended up his career with a .295/.329/.419 major league line with a 3.9 BB% and a 5.6 K%. Both Harper and Astudillo have had questions about their defensive ability, and like Astudillo Harper had to play other positions (OF, 1B and 3B) before he was established.


Harper was an integral part of the Twins 1991 team. Might be the time to let Astudillo be the "Harp" for these Twins...



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I always enjoy seeing the unheralded players make their way and be successful.  Brian Harper is one of my all time favorites as he also transformed himself from a power hitter to a Joe Mauer type of hitter without the walks.  


other examples include Shane Mack, Jeff Reboulet, Junior Ortiz had a nice breakout season with the Twins.  I doubt Nick Punto has the career he had without being on the Twins, Carl Willis had a nice 4 or 5 year run, Juan Berenger, Matt Guerrier, Brandon Kintzler, Johan Santana wasnt supposed to be an ace either or he wouldn't be had in the rule 5.

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Nice write up Thrylos.


If nothing else, La Tortuga is one of those players who makes the game "fun" to watch and he's easy to root for.   Besides that though, I hope the Twins keep him around as he (IMHO) actually brings value to the team.   He's just that type of player that every team needs to have at least one of on its roster.


Viva La Tortuga!!



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He has so much value as a catcher. We need to trade Castro. He is horrid. Please.

And they've already got Grossman to complain about taking called third strikes.

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Love the love, and the write-up. Not ready to declare him the next Harper at this point, mostly because I have a lot of faith in Garver.


Astudillo's biggest problem is he doesn't "fit" what teams expect or are looking for. And I say this with respect and love for the guy. He's not seen as a defensive whiz. He's not a power hitter, Though he flashed more power in 2018 than before at 26yo, nor is he an OB machine. I think the Twins got lucky because they found a nice "ballplayer" who other teams let go because they just didn't know what they had.


While his SSS with the Twins is unsustainable, the guy flat out makes contact and hits. I don't care who you are, you don't hit .300+ your entire milb career if you can't plain old hit. And it appears there is now some budding power as well.


I watched him in several games and he was solid and quiet behind the plate. I watched him play a solid 3B as well. I never got to see him at 1B/2B/OF but supposedly he's at least acceptable there.


The ONLY reason this guy isn't on the roster for 2019 is Castro has made a full recovery and is ready to partner with Garver AND the Twins have made enough of a roster-wide depth upgrade where he is squeezed to Rochester to begin the season.

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Why would the Twins need him when there is a plethora of 35+ year old back up catchers hitting a career .202 available.


There isn’t anywhere near a plethora of good defensive catchers. If there were, guys like Wilson and Butera would have very short major league careers around their peak and then be replaced by the next very good defensive catcher around age 27.


The reason those guys can stick around until age 35 is because it is really hard to find a good defensive catcher and nowhere near a plethora.

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I don’t think he was ever a poor defensive catcher. He showed a good bat with the Angels but he also had solid veteran catchers blocking him in Brian Downing, Ed Ott, Bob Boone and Tony Pena. The Angels also called him up at 19 so they had to make a decision on him and moved him off catcher. He was still blocked when traded to the Pirates by Pena and Junior Ortiz. That his defense at a young age didn’t compare to those veterans shouldn’t have given him the label of poor defensive catcher. He also was brought up to the majors so early he never really had time to develop before teams needed to make 25 and 40 man roster decisions on him. After that he was no longer seen as a catcher until the Twins signed him and gave him the opportunity


If Astudillo’s defense is similar to Harper’s defense he should be the front runner for starting catcher next year. Harper was able to answer the question about his defense. I hope Astudillo can also.

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Someone who plays as hard as Astudillo will always have a job in baseball. Like Cuddyer, Punto, and Buxton, his value is his ability to push the dial to 11. He is the quintessential Twin.

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