Twins utilityman Willians Astudillo cleared release waivers and is now a free agent, per a team announcement. Left-hander Charlie Barnes, meanwhile, went unclaimed on outright waivers and has been assigned to Triple-A St. Paul. He’ll remain with the club but will no longer require a 40-man roster spot. Both players were designated for assignment Friday.
Astudillo, 30, made his big league debut with the Twins back in 2018 and has since displayed an uncommon skill set and fairly rare level of defensive versatility. “La Tortuga” has played every position on the diamond, with the exception of shortstop. Astudillo worked as a catcher and corner infielder with the Phillies in his early days as a prospect and has continued to add more positions to his defensive profile. He’s not considered a plus defender anywhere, but Astudillo embodies the “jack of all trades, master of none” profile quite well.
More interesting is Astudillo’s unorthodox skill set at the plate. As free a swinger as there is in the game, the right-handed-hitting Astudillo also possesses uncanny bat-to-ball skills. He’s struck out just 25 times in 533 career plate appearances (4.7%), but his frequent hacking has led to an even smaller 1.9% walk rate. Astudillo has a bit of raw power, but he swings so early and so often, with such high contact rates, that he rarely finds himself in position to get a pitch to drive. Since 2018 (min. 500 plate appearances), Astudillo has the third-highest swing rate (60.1%) of any player in baseball and the second-highest contact rate (91.5%) — trailing only his now-former teammate Luiz Arraez in that regard.
Astudillo was arbitration-eligible and projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a $1.2MM salary in 2022. Coming off a .236/.259/.375 slash in 216 plate appearances, however, it seems the Twins preferred not to allocate those dollars or a 40-man roster spot to him — particularly with so many prospects needing to be added to the 40-man roster. (Minnesota selected six players Friday.) Astudillo can now sign with any team.
The 26-year-old Barnes is a former fourth-rounder who made his big league debut out of necessity to help soak up some innings in an injury-ruined season for the Twins. He was clobbered for a 5.92 ERA while striking out just 20 of the 175 batters he faced, however. Barnes is a strike-throwing changeup artist whose fastball averaged just 89.9 mph in the Majors. However, he did managed a solid 3.79 ERA with a 19.1% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate in 76 innings at the Triple-A level. He’ll stick with the organization for now and hope for another opportunity in 2022. As it stands, the Twins have a perilously thin mix of starting options, but Minnesota is expected to add several starters this winter.