Willians Astudillo (born October 14, 1991), nicknamed La Tortuga, is a Venezuelan professional baseball utility player for the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his major league debut on June 30, 2018, and has appeared at every position except shortstop in a major league game.
|Minnesota Twins – No. 64|
|Born: October 14, 1991|
|June 30, 2018, for the Minnesota Twins|
|MLB statistics |
(through September 14, 2021)
|Runs batted in||66|
Willians Astudillo was born in Barcelona, Venezuela, located on the country's Caribbean coast. Astudillo's father, a professional baseball player in Venezuela, and his grandfather taught him from an early age how to play baseball. Drills included flicking corn kernel projectiles for the young Astudillo to hit with a broomstick.
Astudillo signed his first professional baseball contract with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent on December 15, 2008. In 2009, Astudillo played for the VSL Phillies. Midway through 2012, he was assigned to the GCL Phillies, and spent the 2013 season with the team as well. In 2014, he played for the Lakewood BlueClaws. In 2015, he was assigned to the Clearwater Threshers, where he would spend the season. On November 6, 2015, he elected free agency.
On November 19, 2015, Astudillo signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves. He spent the year with the minor league affiliate Mississippi Braves. He elected free agency on November 7, 2016. On April 4, 2017, Astudillo signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and was assigned to the Reno Aces. He spent the year with the Aces and elected free agency on November 6, 2017.
On November 30, 2017, Astudillo signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins and was assigned to the Rochester Red Wings. Astudillo was called up to the majors for the first time on June 29, 2018. He made his major league debut at Wrigley Field the following afternoon versus the Chicago Cubs as a defensive replacement in left field in the fifth inning, later switching to center field. In the sixth inning, he singled on a ground ball to second base to score Robbie Grossman for his first major league hit. On July 14, 2018, he made his major league pitching debut, completing the final inning of a 19–6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Target Field. He allowed five runs on five hits and two home runs for a 45.00 earned run average (ERA) in his lone pitching entry of the season. Astudillo spent most of his playing time at catcher and third base and made other appearances at second base. He appeared in 30 games total for the Twins in 2018, batting .355, .371 on-base percentage, .516 slugging percentage, three home runs, 21 RBI, two walks and three strikeouts over 93 plate appearances.
The Twins announced their selection of Astudillo for his first major league 25-man Opening Day roster on March 27, 2019, as one of five bench players. One month later, he was placed on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. He was batting .327 with two home runs. He ended the season hitting .268 in 58 games.
Known for an extremely high contact rate, Astudillo produced eight of the 30 lowest strikeout rates with a minimum of 100 plate appearances according to Baseball Prospectus' catalog of over 42,000 individual seasons from 2005–2018. He produced the lowest of all at 0.9% in Venezuela in 2011, second-lowest at 1.8% in Venezuela in 2010, and fourth-lowest at 2.4% in the Florida State League in 2015.
On July 3, 2020, it was announced that Astudillo had tested positive for COVID-19. Astudillo appeared in just 8 games in 2020, gathering only 16 at-bats and batting .250/.250/.500 with 1 home run and 3 RBI. After the 2020 season, he played for Caribes de Anzoátegui of the Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional (LVMP). He has also played for Venezuela in the 2021 Caribbean Series.
He has thrice been a relief pitcher. On April 17, 2021, he took the Los Angeles Angels' 8th inning 1-2-3 in seven pitches, with his slowest tracked strike being at 46 mph. Two of his seven pitches were so slow that the radar gun failed to track them. He again pitched in relief on August 26, 2021, when he pitched a scoreless 8th inning against the Boston Red Sox.
Several prevalent distinctions about Astudillo have helped create popularity with fans: his non-athletic build, multi-positional flexibility, and a highly aggressive batting style that yields few strikeouts or walks. At 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall and 225 pounds (102 kg), his determination helped propel him to the major leagues. “All my minor league career I heard I was not going to be a big leaguer because I did not 'look' like one. I was too short. I was too stocky. I did not have the physical traits customary associated with a Major League player,” he noted on Instagram. “Well here I am.”
Combining his professional careers in both the American minor leagues and Venezuela, Astudillo has played at every position except shortstop. He then accomplished the same feat within his first two major league seasons. Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey commented that team scouts were perplexed by Astudillo as projection systems failed to find any closely comparable hitters, and were also amused when he informed them that he could play center field. To prove it, Astudillo played footage of himself robbing a home run in a Venezuelan winter league game.
In an era notable for its rising strikeout rates and where high walk rates are prized, Astudillo's aggressive batting approach manifests a gestalt with an unusually low number of both. In his minor league career through the 2018 season, he had put the ball in play in 2,400 of 2,571 plate appearances.
His brother, Wilfred, is also a professional baseball player.
- "Willians Astudillo's heroic run from first to home left him gasping for all the air". Cut4. 2018-09-12. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
- Sawchik, Travis (April 5, 2019). "Willians Astudillo is a baseball enigma". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
- "Willians Astudillo stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
- Neal, La Velle E. III (March 3, 2018). "Catcher Willians Astudillo keeping busy for Twins". Star Tribune. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- Willians Astudillo recalled after Twins place Taylor Motter on concussion DL
- "Minnesota Twins at Chicago Cubs box score". Baseball-Reference.com. June 30, 2018. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
- "Tampa Bay Rays at Minnesota Twins box score". Baseball-Reference.com. July 14, 2018. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
- "Willians Astudillo minor & winter league statistics & history". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
- Gorsegner, TJ (March 25, 2019). "Opening Day Roster". SB Nation. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
- Neal, La Velle E. III (April 27, 2019). "Willians Astudillo placed on the injured list". Star Tribune. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
- Lindbergh, Ben (July 3, 2018). "Willians Astudillo Is Here to Stop the Strikeouts". The Ringer. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
- West, Jenna. "Twins, Red Sox Among Positive COVID-19 Cases". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2020-07-04.
- Twins utilityman Willians Astudillo wows with 46 mph pitch, NY Post
- La Tortuga tosses clean inning for Twins, MLB.com
- Baccellieri, Emma (April 6, 2019). "Twins' utilityman Willians Astudillo drew his first walk of season. It was epic!". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 28, 2019.