Infielder Willians Astudillo has signed with the Fukuoka SoftBanks Hawks of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Astudillo, a client of the MAS Agency, will be guaranteed $1.35MM on the deal.
Astudillo has generated plenty of fanfare in recent years. A utility option for the Twins and Marlins, he has one of the rarest profiles in the sport. Astudillo is the antithesis of the three-true-outcomes hitter that has gained so much prevalence in the modern game. He virtually never walks, rarely strikes out and has modest power. Astudillo has appeared in the majors in each of the past five seasons, tallying 588 cumulative plate appearances. He’s a .267/.291/.396 hitter over that stretch, striking out just 4.8% of the time with a 1.9% walk rate.
After four seasons in the Twin Cities, the Venezuela native was non-tendered last winter. He landed with the Marlins on a minor league contract last offseason. Astudillo would appear in 21 big league contests but spent most of the season at Triple-A Jacksonville. The right-handed hitter had an excellent season as a Jumbo Shrimp, putting up a .307/.371/.541 line with 16 longballs in only 315 trips to the plate. Astudillo had one more walk than strikeouts (17 to 16).
A catching prospect earlier in his career, Astudillo has mostly moved to the infield in recent years. He still occasionally goes behind the plate, starting four games there in Jacksonville in 2022. More of his experience has come at third and second base, though he also can play first base and the corner outfield. Astudillo isn’t a great defender anywhere; moving him around the diamond has more served to get his high-contact bat in the lineup.
This will be the first stint in an Asian professional league for the 31-year-old. His salary with the Hawks is well above what he’d have been guaranteed if he signed another minor league contract with an MLB team this offseason.