Take a look at the home run above. Courtesy of the superb Willians Astudillo, we already have the greatest home run spotlight of 2019. It got here in Venezuela, and it defies description. I believe the solely manner it might be topped is that if Yasiel Puig hits a walk-off home run in Recreation 7 of the World Sequence, however that may imply the Reds getting to the World Sequence, which appears unlikely.
Astudillo made his huge league debut final season with the Minnesota Twins and in 29 video games hit .355 with two home runs. However should you bear in mind something about Astudillo, it is most likely this spotlight of him working the bases:
Dimension would not measure pace. pic.twitter.com/r13jphlD9j
— MLB (@MLB) September 13, 2018
Together with his nontraditional physique and hair flying behind him like he is poking his head out of a 747, Astudillo grew to become a right away cult hero. There’s even a five-minute spotlight video of his 2018 exploits on YouTube. For instance:
Right here he’s selecting Shane Robinson off first base in a spring coaching recreation with a no-look throw:
Right here he’s pulling off the hidden ball trick whereas taking part in for Rochester:
Right here he is petting a pretend horse. Sure, a pretend horse. Simply watch the video and pay shut consideration:
There was additionally this face-plant that led to teammate Jose Berrios throwing sunflower seeds at him:
As talked about, nonetheless, he isn’t only a freak-show novelty. Right here he’s belting a walk-off home run to beat the Royals in September:
As you’ll be able to see from the movies, Astudillo is not with out some athleticism regardless of his girth, and he can play a number of positions. With the Twins, he began 14 video games at catcher, 5 at third base, one at second and even performed a number of innings in the outfield — together with an inning in heart discipline, making him, in accordance to Ben Lindbergh, the first player in main league historical past listed at 5-foot-9 or shorter and 215 kilos or heavier to play heart discipline. In winter ball, he has spent most of his time in left discipline. At 27, he is too previous to rank excessive on prospect lists, however he can play and has an opportunity to persist with the Twins as a utility player.
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All of this has helped make Astudillo one of the most fascinating gamers to watch in 2019. This is the factor, although: I have never talked about the most interesting factor about him. The dude by no means strikes out. Like … virtually by no means. With the Twins, he struck out simply thrice in 97 plate appearances, a strikeout charge of three.1 %. The second-lowest charge belonged to Mets infielder Luis Guillorme, who fanned simply thrice in 74 PAs, a four.1 % charge (though Guillorme was above 10 % in Triple-A). That is an outlier whole as nicely: The third-lowest charge was Andrelton Simmons at 7.three %, and solely six different gamers have been under 10 %.
Not placing out is Astudillo’s recreation. At Triple-A Rochester, he fanned simply 14 occasions in 307 PAs. In winter ball, he has 4 strikeouts in 236 PAs. In his minor league profession, he has simply 81 strikeouts in 638 video games. Joey Gallo struck out 80 occasions in Could and June. Sure, the minor leagues aren’t the majors, and we’ve got to be aware that Astudillo additionally by no means walks — he walked simply twice with the Twins and simply 84 occasions in his minor league profession. He had these 14 Ok’s with Rochester, however simply 10 walks, giving him a triple-slash line of .276/.314/.469. Principally, when he swings, he places the ball in play.
He is an iconoclast in the period of swing and miss.
The best contact hitter in the sport’s historical past is arguably Corridor of Famer Joe Sewell. In 1925, he performed 155 video games, batted 699 occasions — and struck out 4 occasions. In his 14-year profession, he batted eight,333 occasions and fanned simply 114 occasions. Yoan Moncada calls that the All-Star break. Sewell’s profession strikeout charge was a minuscule 1.four %. Baseball-Reference has recreation knowledge for Sewell from 1925 to 1933. He had one two-strikeout recreation, on Could 26, 1930, when a pitcher named Pat Carraway of the White Sox received him in the first and third innings. Sewell, who choked up on a 40-ounce bat, did not strike out once more the relaxation of the season.
In fact, that was a unique period. In 1925, the general main league strikeout charge was a lowly 6.9 %. In 2018, it was 22.three %. Astudillo not often whiffs in an period of 100 mph fastballs, nasty cutters and sliders diving off cliffs. Sewell confronted Lefty Grove … and a complete bunch of guys throwing 85 mph. (By the manner, Sewell confronted Grove — the preeminent strikeout pitcher in the American League in his time — 129 occasions and fanned only one time.)
Let’s evaluate Astudillo to different low-strikeout hitters by the certified batters who had the lowest strikeout charge every decade:
The unwhiffable eight
There are a pair of methods you’ll be able to look at this. Astudillo, in his quick time with the Twins, fanned 19.2 % much less typically than the common hitter. Sewell, in 1925, fanned simply 6.three % much less typically, though clearly had much less room to “enhance.” If we evaluate the player’s charge to the league charge, Sewell’s 1932 season stands as the greatest, whereas Astudillo’s charge compares to Boudreau, Fox and Dave Money’s 1976 season with the Phillies. (I ponder if Money made a concerted effort not to strike out that season. He had 47 extra-base hits in 1975 and 49 in 1977, however simply 27 in 1976, batting greater than 700 occasions every season.)
What form of function will Astudillo have with the Twins in 2019? His Baseball-Reference projection has him at .279/.335/.438 (with 42 strikeouts in 249 PAs, which looks as if manner too many). He is third on the catching depth chart behind Jason Castro and Mitch Garver, though Baseball Prospectus’ minor league framing metrics rated him as a stable pitch framer. The third baseman is Ehire Adrianza — or Miguel Sano, if the Twins strive to put him again there — so perhaps there’s a chance there. The outfield seems fairly set with Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, and Jake Cave as the backup. Nelson Cruz will take in all the DH at-bats. Nonetheless, there’s taking part in time to be had, and I believe Astudillo hits his manner into 300 or so plate appearances.
Which suggests loads of spotlight movies to hold everybody joyful all summer time.