Willians Astudillo at-bat for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

Where Have You Gone, La Tortuga?

The world moves fast, this is as true now as it ever has been. It is for that reason that I like to occasionally slow down and enjoy something. Because of my proclivity for watching unaffiliated baseball more often than not that means some discarded affiliated ballplayer. Sometimes that can mean a player still in affiliated ball who has fallen through the cracks for one reason or another.

It would be hard for Willians Astudillo to fall through any crack, and yet despite his early-season Major League Baseball success, he has managed to do just that. La Tortuga found himself the victim of bad timing. His approach to hitting isn’t made for the current MLB landscape, that is something we’ve always known. Still, his ability to make contact allowed him to stand out in a world where seemingly everyone strikes out all the time. Unfortunately for him, he found himself on the wrong end of a Minnesota Twins roster crunch and then a right oblique strain. Add it all up and the guy everyone loved to start the season has become an afterthought as the season has progressed.

The argument could be made that Astudillo simply isn’t that good of a baseball player, but I think history easily dispels that notion. He doesn’t possess a flashy skill set and that will most likely always be the case. He is, however, a good ballplayer who happens to be lots of fun. Astudillo is also in the middle of finishing a rehab assignment with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Doube-A level Southern League. That means hopefully Astudillo will be gracing MLB games in the near future.

In the meantime, Astudillo has been crushing SOUL pitching, after previously crushing International League pitching during the aforementioned roster crunch demotion to the Triple-A level Rochester Red Wings. It’s a small sample, but Astudillo’s MiLB stats are very Astudillo-like. In 51 at-bats he’s slashing .521/.529/.854 with 5 home runs and only 2 walks and 1 strikeout. I don’t care for one second that it’s a small sample, or that it is astronomically better than his .263/.282/.383 slash line with the Twins. I only care that Astudillo is playing baseball and remaining just as fun to watch as throughout the rest of his career.

Maybe Astudillo will never be an MLB regular, but I don’t particularly care about that distinction. He’ll play baseball for years to come, in both affiliated and unaffiliated ball and I’ll always get excited to watch someone as different and fun as La Tortuga. Watching him play is what I care about, and whether it’s with the Blue Wahoos or the Twins as long as I’m getting to watch him do his thing I’m happy. Baseball needs players who are different. It needs players who approach the game from a different angle than everyone else. I don’t care what league they play in, I will always seek out and root for those players, Willians Astudillo most of all.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Pensacola Blue Wahoos Twitter

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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