Multiple-position flexibility is very important to a National League squad. According to Baseball America’s transaction page, the Braves have added one with the fun caveat of also being a semi-regular catcher. That is a rarity because, usually, if you are a good enough catcher, that’s where you stick. You don’t move to first base, third base, and LF like Willians Astudillo did last season. Oh, and he’s also played second base in his six year-career that began in 2009.
Venezuelan born, Astudillo spent his first three seasons in the Summer League down there where he progressed from .250 to .361 in batting average with some video game numbers in 2011, his final year. Not only did he hit .361, but he walked 15 times to two strikeouts. 2! And only grounded into 2 double plays. Weird. The season finally prompted the Phillies to take Astudillo to the states and he spent a season in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .318/.327/.419 in 45 games.
He would miss all of 2013, but came back with a vengeance in 2014, slashing his way to a .333/.366/.433 season with 4 HR and a 19/20 BB/K rate while playing for Lakewood, a SALLY team that often squares off against Rome. He followed that up by hitting well in a brief cameo in the Venezuelan Winter League in preparations for the 2015 season, which was spent with Clearwater, an advanced-A team. In 107 games, he slashed .314/.348/.384 with 3 HR and as many K’s as he had walks (all of ten in over 400 PA). He took home the Florida State League batting title.
A minor league free agent, he became the second player the Braves signed this offseason after inking Reid Brignac earlier. Astudillo puts up some funny numbers and is a career .318/.360/.403 hitter, which is solid enough to deserve a look. His ability to catch and then move around allows wherever he lands options, but it’s more a fun addition to his game that makes him valuable. He won’t be much of a threat to other catchers in the system by any means. He’s a throwback to an era that valued third catchers who could do a lot of little things.
Expect Astudillo, if he sticks around through spring, to either be in Mississippi or Carolina for 2016.