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  • In Defense of La Tortuga

    Cody Pirkl

    Pretty much any platform involving Twins fans has been a rough place lately, and for good reason. Some weird takes are developing as would be expected, but there’s one that makes no sense. Why is everybody hating on Willians Astudillo?

    Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Remember the good old days? 2018 wasn’t the greatest of Twins seasons but a short stocky utilityman debuted late in the season. After slashing .355/.371/.516 the legend of La Tortuga was born. While that magic at the plate didn’t carry into 2019, Astudillo remained a fan favorite not only in Twins territory, but throughout all of baseball.

    La Tortuga has been a ton of fun, but it’s important to note that he’s more than just an entertaining story. Even though he’s never approached his scorching hot debut again, he’s been right around a league average hitter for his career. He can play all over the field at just about any position except shortstop and center field, though not particularly well. Even for a good team he’s a Major League caliber player, even if that comes with the condition he shouldn’t be playing everyday.

    Speaking in present day terms, it’s safe to say that Astudillo has been exposed a bit more than we would prefer so far. He’s played in 22 of the Twins 31 games so far which is probably more than a player like Astudillo should see. That being said he’s having his best season since his debut with a slash line of .313/.308/.484, good for a wRC+ of 120. Sure, his plate approach can be frustrating which has led to his OBP hilariously being lower than his batting average (nope that slash line wasn’t a typo), but he’s been 20% above a league average hitter so far this year.

    Nope, I’m not trying to make the point that Astudillo is a key offensive player on this Twins team. He has however been basically the best bench bat they could have asked for. Has he come up in some big spots and failed miserably? Sure!

    Nobody likes to see this, but it was never the plan. Astudillo is the same fun Twins player he has been these last few years. In fact, he’s been that player and then some offensively. Look back just one year to see Marwin and Adrianza who were in the same overexposed role and falling flat on their faces.

    The Astudillo slander has to stop. I’m not saying Twins Territory has to fall back in love with him, but we shouldn’t let our frustrations with the team as a whole boil over into undeserving parties. The team has plenty of problems, Tortuga being overexposed being one of them, but his performance hasn’t been an issue. He may not be spectacular but in a season of disappointments, the blame deserves to be directed elsewhere.

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    I'm not a fan, but I've always been of the opinion that he has value as the 25th/26th man that doesn't need to play every day but can play basically anywhere and give you some offense. He's still that guy to me and he's done nothing to convince me he's anything more than that. He's played far more than I'd like this season due to a variety of circumstances, but teams do need a guy like him. And they're often underrated.

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    I've been a Turtle fan from the get go. Although he may not be getting it done in the 10th inning, the Twins as a team aren't either. The team seldom gets the runner from 2nd to 3rd, let alone home.


    I do have a little 2021 comparison for people who want a little "bang for their buck". This is a comparison of Astudillo's 2021 stats compared to Josh Donaldon's stats.  


                           Astudillo//      Donaldson

    Salary:/           $573,500//     $23,000,000(avg of 4 yr contract)

    Games:/            20//                20

    Plate appear:/   65//               75

    At bats:/            64//                69

    Hits:/                 20//                20

    Home Runs:/    3//                  3

    RBI's:/             11//                10

    Strike outs:/      4//                 11

    Batting Avg:/    .313//             .290

    Slugging %:/    .484//             .446

    OPS:/               .792//             .877


    Now I would take Donaldson's fielding at third any day over Turtle's, but he's done adequate around the field from watching the games. 


    This is a small sample size with a lot of season left to change. But I guess what I'm saying is: Don't be grumbling on La Tortuga. He's been of of our more dependable hitters and players so far this season. 

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    If you have a runner at third and less than two outs, who would you rather have at bat, Astudillo or Sano? It isn't close. Sano is going to strike out and Astudillo is going to put the ball in play. He's a ballplayer. Not a great talent, not a star, but in terms of baseball intelligence and grit, an admirable ballplayer.


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    Excellent point in your post.  I would go even further to state that AT ANY POINT in ANY GAME given the choice between Astudillo hitting vs. Sano---------any reasonable Twins fans (not related to Sano) would choose El Tortuga for a multitude of reasons.


    Statistically the ONLY area that Sano is "better" than Astudillo is in drawing walks--Sano with 15 vs. zero for the Turtle.  Even giving Sano that...its quite amazing that Astudillo has a better OBP than Sano (.308 to .299).  No comparison in .avg (.313 to .129), hits (20 to 8), extra base hits (5 to 3), RBI-(11 to 5), total bases (31 to 14).  Moreover, as bad as the Turtle can be (swinging at everything) he at least MAKES CONTACT!!  Sano continues to whiff at nearly a fifty percent rate (46.8%) with his 29 K's in his 62 ABs.   He's just an automatic out.  Sick and tired...when I did watch a game, of hearing Bremer and Morneau ad nauseam talk of how Sano is "taking really good ABs--just missing pitches."  Are you kidding me?  I know Dick & Justin have to "toe the company line" (never overtly criticizing any player), but, seriously, give me a break.  


    The only reason I honestly believe Sano is back playing getting regular ABs right now is $$ signs!  He's making $11m this season and due to make $9.25m in 2022.  Falvey and mgmt keep running him out there somehow hoping he can recapture some semblance of the hitter that he was post-All Star Break in 2019/ 65 games: .254 avg with 21 jacks, 55 RBI, .362 OBP and a .939 OPS.  


    The Pohlad group has got to be hoping and praying for "that player" to somehow be reincarnated this season. That way---they can trade him this season to an AL team contending for a playoff slot that needs a DH.  If not this season, if Sano can rekindle his 2nd half 2019 mojo-------the hope is some desperate NL GM will make a trade offer for him in the offseason, which would take his $m+ salary off the books for next year.


    Time to give Astudillo full time duty at 1B until Kirilloff comes off IL to take over.

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    Nobody in organization should be given quarter from criticism. They’re playing awful baseball. I don’t blame players, personally. I tend to blame it on the people making the decisions. Astudillo isn’t an issue if they’re making competent personnel decisions elsewhere (see 2019 when he hit .260 and OPS’d less than .700 in 200+ PAs).


    That said, Astudillo has been pretty good this year (except when it matters most, as noted - it’s just not that hard to bear down and get the guy out). He’s a fine bench player. It’s not his fault that nobody else on the roster can stay healthy and he gets more run in big spots than he should.


    Speaking of injuries, at what point do we start question what the training and strength/conditioning staff is doing? NFL teams don’t see this many injuries and they’re openly trying to maim each other on the field.

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    "Speaking of injuries, at what point do we start question what the training and strength/conditioning staff is doing? NFL teams don’t see this many injuries and they’re openly trying to maim each other on the field."


    ...instead of their fan base....well, I guess the Vikings and T-Wolves fail on that count too.


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    The Turtle gives you a lot of coverage for being 25-26 on the roster. Is he an elite defensive replacement anywhere? Probably not. But he can go out and make standard and at times above standard defensive plays. I saw  Polanco and Sano in the OF, enough said. Also, contemplate Cave at 1B? He has trouble with ground balls in the OF. Donaldson in RF? Garver in LF? Point is while the Turtle may not outplay a MLB starter in a defensive position, he will outplay most of them if they are off their normal spot on the field. Nice flexibility for a manager to have. 

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    Thank you for the article.  Too many times Astudillo makes it into the rants and I do not know why.  He is fun, hustles, and hits.  He is the attitude we want. I used to love to watch Kirby Puckett because he smiled and loved the game, Astudillo is the one player who truly loves what he is doing.  I think Arraez and Buxton have that too if they could stay healthy. 

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    I love him!  You can see the joy of playing major league baseball in everything he does. I also think he is a good player that many teams would love to have because of his flexibility in positions!  Many fans tune in to see certain players.  Mine are Berrios, Sano, Astudillo and Cruz.  Buxton is also exciting but so frustraing at the same time.


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    I agree he is not the main reason for the Twins failures so far this year. That falls squarely on Thad and Rocco, as well as the underachieving “core” players. Austudillo is what he is, a slow, poor fielding, average hitter, who you do not want up to bat in the late innings with the game on the line. He is a good story and fun to watch at times, but doesn’t really have a role on any contending team active roster.

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    Huh? People are hating on Astudillo? I hear/read nothing but praise of the player, minus one podcast host (of the 20 MLB/Twins podcasts I listen to). 


    Twins Daily loves him. Twitter loves him. Fangraphs loves him. The Ringer. Twinkie Town. The Athletic. Etc.


    This seems like a defense looking for an accusation.

    You could have just written an article praising Astudillo for being a solid 26th man instead of making up a non-existent narrative.

    (sorry for the harsh criticism, but I detest blogging and journalism that is trying to stir up controversy)

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    Astudillo's last 14 ABs: .429/.429/.857


    Astudillo's previous 50 ABs : .280/.275/.380


    Even the 50 AB sample before his recent power surge is buoyed by a couple multi hit games to start the year. He spent the three weeks prior to this little streak slashing .220/.214/.293. I don't even see an average offensive player. The weak bat coupled with his inability to be even an average defender at whichever position the Twins deploy him is the reason for the criticism, and it's valid. 



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    The comparison with Donaldson was telling...and sad. Its also sad when a utility player hitting over .300 is still maligned. Most of the Twins BA's are pathetic. When a utility player has to play this much, your team is in deep trouble. His extra inning production is poor...as is the ENTIRE team. Scoring only in one game out of 7. Not being able to bat in a runner from 2nd (except for a Buxton HR)


    The Twins are a mess. As a team, they are a mess.. Yesterdays loss was pathetic. 16 left on base. k after k.

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