After suspending him for a game earlier this month due to tardiness, the Atlanta Braves released second baseman Dan Uggla on Friday. The move was expected, since he was hitting just .162 with two home runs over 130 at-bats this season with only 18 plate appearances since the start of June. Rookie Tommy La Stella will now be Atlanta’s unquestioned starting second baseman going forward, but should fantasy baseball owners have him on their radar?
La Stella was called up in late May, and after going 1-for-3 against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday he’s now hitting .292 with 18 RBI, 12 runs scored and nine doubles over 161 at-bats for the Braves this season. In 13 July games La Stella is hitting .314 (16-for-51) with four RBI, which made Uggla even more expendable.
La Stella has a career batting average of .322 over 1,013 minor league at-bats, and thus far in his time with the Braves a stellar contact rate (86.3 percent) and a batting average on balls in play (.333 entering Saturday) that is not overly inflated makes a .290-.300 batting average sustainable over the rest of the season. But his minor league track record does not suggest a lot of power (21 home runs) or speed (24 stolen bases) upside, so La Stella’s fantasy value will be fairly limited barring something unforeseen.
La Stella is currently available in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he could be worth a look in deeper mixed leagues with an unabated path to a starting job now. But I think he has more immediate value, and appeal as a waiver wire addition, in NL-only leagues for owners that are looking for a batting average boost over the second half of the season.