The Atlanta Braves have a small situation on their hands. Dan Uggla really can’t hit. He’s also not the not the most reliable guy to have out on the field either. With his contract and his performance, the Braves will make an easy decision in the next season or two to bench or trade Uggla and look for young blood. Lucky for the Braves, they have a young man in their farm system named Tommy La Stella.
I had the pleasure of very briefly meeting with La Stella recently, and he is even impressive with how he thinks and speaks.
Question: “You’re considered one of the better prospects in the organization and we all know about your offensive ability, but how are you working on your game defensively?”
Answer: (La Stella) “Every day is pretty much a process, I mean we’ve got a good routine here with the coaches. We work a lot of the double-play turn and footwork around the bag. Overall it’s just a process to work hard, not just on one thing, but getting better overall.”
Question: “Offensively, with the struggle going on with the big league club, do you think you are ready to step up for the team?”
Answer: (La Stella) “You pretty much have to be confident in your ability to perform at any level, but I mean that’s so far out of my control I really try not to think about it because it will just detract from what I’m trying to do on the field right now.”
Physically, La Stella is not the most imposing player that has come through the minor leagues, but on the field he passes the eye test. While he was in AA Mississippi this season, he hit an amazing .343 in 81 games. He doesn’t have the power that Uggla has given the team, but he has hit 20 home runs in three total seasons in the minor leagues. He had 97 hits in 283 official at bats, and more impressively he has yet to strike out more times in a season than he walked. On the field, there are very few knocks against him and he owns a career fielding percentage of .973.
Then he went to play in the Arizona Fall League. All he did in his time in the fall was open more and more eyes to the fact that he can clearly be the guy to lock down the second base position in the future. In 18 games, he went on to hit .290, had eight extra-base hits and walked 16 times.
Needless to say, La Stella has caught the eye of many people in the Braves’ organization. He has been called to join the team in Spring Training this season and could see time with the team before the 2014 season has come to an end. And if he doesn’t, well, he will be working and getting better every day in preparation for his call.