A buzz has surrounded Atlanta Braves second base prospect Tommy La Stella since proving himself as a legitimate prospect at a higher level last season.
With recent speculation that the Braves could look elsewhere for second base production because of the continued struggles of Dan Uggla, La Stella’s name has been thrust into the conversation.
La Stella is ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the Braves system, according to Baseball America. He profiles as an average second baseman with the ability to hit for a high batting average.
While the Braves struggle to get on base at a consistent rate early in the season, La Stella’s ability to make constant contact could be a breath of fresh air in Atlanta, if the Braves decide to give him a chance.
La Stella, drafted in the eighth round in 2011 out of Coastal Carolina, entered the weekend hitting .300 with 13 walks to 10 strikeouts in 129 plate appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett.
He put himself on the prospect map in 2013 by hitting .343 with more walks than strikeouts in 81 games for Double-A Mississippi.
La Stella’s one strong skill is a hit tool that grades well above average for the major league level. He makes consistent contact to all parts of the field by spraying line drives, and he knows the strike zone, avoiding strikeouts by putting wood on the ball and taking walks at a good rate.
Multiple scouts confirmed La Stella’s hit tool as plus, which means it’s better than the average major league hit tool.
La Stella’s swing is short and quick, which would allow him to avoid whiffing more than most hitters in the majors.
With a contact-oriented approach means a lack of power. He has shown power potential in the past, but he has shortened his swing to make better contact, which has sacrificed his power.
La Stella’s speed and defense spell average. He makes the routine plays at second base, but he lacks the first-step quickness to have above-average range. He won’t help or hurt the Braves defense at the position and his speed won’t be a factor in games.
La Stella is a one-tool player, similar to Uggla and his power. But, unlike Uggla, La Stella can utilize his tool much more often, which increases his value.
The difference between La Stella and Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena likely wouldn’t be that noticeable over the course of this season, but La Stella represents the best option for getting on base now and in the future.
That is something the Braves desperately need to score more runs.
IMPROBABLE GAME: Minor League Baseball is capable of producing unique moments each summer, perhaps none more so than Wednesday in the Class A Midwest League.
After 3 hours and 28 minutes, and five half-innings that featured five runs or more each, the Clinton LumberKings beat the Burlington Bees 20-17 in 12 innings.
Burlington held a 17-1 lead after five innings, but Clinton charged back by scoring six in the sixth and five in the eighth. Down by five in the ninth, Clinton scored one run to get within four with two outs remaining.
Clinton’s Marcus Littlewood followed with a game-tying grand slam to send the game to extra innings.
Clinton scored three in the top of the 12th on an RBI groundout by Justin Seager and two-run single by Lonnie Kauppila, giving the LumberKings the improbable comeback win.
The teams totaled 37 runs, 35 hits, including five home runs in a game that featured 12 pitchers.