The Braves aren’t ready to give up on second baseman Dan Uggla and the massive remainder of his contract, but they are ready to give his likely long-term replacement a try. The Braves promoted Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Gwinnett to fix what has been a disastrous keystone situation. With a .177/.258/.277 batting line, Braves second basemen rank 28th in average, on-base percentage and slugging this season.
La Stella is one of the best pure hitting prospects in the minors. He has a career .322 average in the minors, consistently has posted .400-plus on-base percentages and has walked more than he has struck out throughout. He uses the whole field, and is a pest to pitchers because of his hand-eye coordination that allows him to work deep counts. La Stella needs to hit, because that’s his only plus tool.
As a defender, scouts see La Stella as adequate at best. He has limited range and an average arm, but he does make the routine play consistently. He is a good baserunner but he has below-average speed.
What To Expect
La Stella will outproduce Uggla, but he could do that and still be demoted for poor production. That’s because Uggla’s .511 OPS is untenable for a big league regular (or anybody who isn’t an all-world defender). The question for fantasy owners is how much La Stella will hit. It will be surprising if he doesn’t make consistent contact. He’s always had the ability to put the bat on the ball. But La Stella needs to at least produce the occasional double to keep pitchers honest and to help him draw walks, which is a big part of his value. He will have more job security than most rookie second baseman just because the Braves have so few options right now with Uggla, Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena all struggling.
Fantasy owners should expect to see La Stella help with batting average and runs scored. He will provide almost no help in home runs, RBIs and or stolen bases.