On the surface, it was one of those small, easy-to-overlook transactions that happens on a daily basis around the league. But, when the Twins called up journeyman utility player Willians Astudillo last Friday, they introduced baseball to its newest folk hero.
Astudillo, a soon-to-be 27-year-old who was never on any top prospect lists, has overwhelming fan favorite qualities. First of all, he has a cool name. That's key. Willians? Can't get much cooler than that. Willians Astudillo just rolls off the tongue.
Secondly, Astudillo is a hefty little guy listed at 5-foot-9 and 225 pounds on MLB.com. It's always easy to root for a short and stocky baseball player. Please enjoy him legging out his first career big-league triple:
Third, Astudillo plays pretty much everywhere, and fans seem to love dudes who can play any position. Already Astudillo has manned third base, left field, and center field (!) in his short time with the Twins. He is starting at second base on Tuesday night.
Astudillo came up as a catcher and he still plays the position plenty. He caught 29 games in Triple-A this season. Back in spring training Astudillo made a no-look pickoff throw to first base to catch a runner napping. Check it out:
Who doesn't love a catcher who can play pretty much any other position on the field? Being versatile is a great way to stick in the big leagues.
You know what else Astudillo does that lots of people will love? He never strikes out. Astudillo has been playing professional baseball since 2009. He has 609 games and 2,342 plate appearances worth of minor-league experience. And, in those 2,342 minor-league plate appearances, Astudillo has struck out 76 times. Seventy-six times!
Already this season 173 minor leaguers -- and 47 big leaguers -- have struck out at least 76 times. Astudillo has struck 76 times since 2009. In an age when games are filled with strikeouts, a stocky little guy -- I mean that with the utmost affection -- with a cool name who plays all over the field and never strikes out is awfully fun, and I am pro fun.
It's unclear how long the Twins plan to keep Astudillo around. He was called up to replace the injured Taylor Motter, and it is entirely possible he will be sent back down when Motter returns. Then again Astudillo is 5 for 11 (.455) in his limited time as a big leaguer (with no strikeouts, of course), and the best way to stay in the big leagues is to hit and keep hitting.
Even if his time in the show is short lived, I would like to personally thank the Twins for bringing Astudillo to the big leagues and introducing him to the masses. Bartolo Colon is year-to-year at this point of his career. Baseball needs a new folk hero and Astudillo looks to be up to the task.