Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
With Dan Uggla playing his way off the playoff roster last season, many Braves fans spent the winter calling for Tommy La Stella to take the second base job in Atlanta in 2014. However, with the money tied up in Uggla, and his complete lack of trade interest, the Braves decided to stay with the former All-Star and hope he can bounce back.
Therefore, La Stella is currently the every day second baseman for Triple-A Gwinnett. A left-handed hitter, La Stella has excelled so far against right-handed pitching, posting a .395/.435/.421 line in his first 43 plate appearances against them. To date, the 25-year old is hitting .339/.412/.375 with nine RBI and 11 runs scored. He is also on a hot streak, collecting nine hits and scoring five times in the last four games.
An eighth round pick in 2011, La Stella has always hit for average. Prior to the start of this season, he compiled a very impressive .327/.412/.496 line over 846 at-bats and has even shown a little power with 20 career home runs. However, he has struggled with injuries and has not played in more that 88 games in any of his three professional seasons thus far.
Many fans and talent evaluators see La Stella as the Braves’ second baseman of the future. He appears to be a clear upgrade over Uggla in average and on-base percentage, and should be an improvement defensively as well. It appears to only be a matter of time before La Stella makes his Major League debut, though there are a few obstacles in his way.
He is not a member of the 40-man roster, and fellow infielder Elmer Reyes is. If injury strikes for the big league club, it would be easier to promote Reyes from Double-A Mississippi, especially if an infielder is needed for a short-term fix. Also, the Braves have Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena already on the roster. The pair can each play multiple positions in a pinch.
Of course, thanks (?) to the many members of the Atlanta pitching staff on the 60-Day disabled list, the Braves do have some roster flexibility if they choose to promote La Stella. He seems like a natural candidate to platoon at second base with Uggla and provide a change of pace from the all-or-nothing, big-power, low-average lineup Atlanta currently features. At worst, La Stella should see the big leagues in September. At best, he will be there tonight.