While B.J. Upton is having a better season for the Atlanta Braves than he did in 2013, it’s clear that hitting him in the No. 2 spot in the lineup just isn’t working out. With Jason Heyward swinging a hot bat for the Braves in the leadoff position (where he doesn’t belong), it seems like there isn’t much production coming from Upton in the following at-bat. The main cause for this is the alarming rate in which he is striking out, with the second most strikeouts in MLB (behind Ryan Howard). In their two-hole, the Braves need someone who is going to put the ball in play more often and be able to advance Heyward to second or third so the middle of the lineup doesn’t have to do it all with one swing.
This is where Tommy La Stella can come into play. Since entering the major leagues, La Stella has done nothing but impress the Braves’ brass as well as all of the fans in Braves country. However, hitting him No. 7 in the lineup, between Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons, is just leaving an out in the No. 2 spot four out of every five times around. I think even a straight switch, sending La Stella to No. 2 and Upton to No. 7 would do the lineup some good for the time being.
The reason that La Stella deserves to be in that position is because of the contact that he makes. He has double digit hit games in six of his 11 starts and has only struck out twice in 42 plate appearances. Offensively, he reminds me a lot of Martin Prado, in that he doesn’t have great power but he makes contact and can keep rallies alive when the team needs one. So far, all 14 of his base hits are singles, but first and second with none out sounds better than a runner on first and one out. Also, with his contact, the Braves would be able to hit and run with Heyward on the base paths, with the trust that there is someone at the plate who can make contact on a regular basis.
Not only would moving La Stella to the No. 2 spot in the lineup help the whole team offensively, but individually, Heyward would be able to be more aggressive on the bases and the guys behind them will have more, and easier, opportunities to drive in runs as the season progresses.