Although it’s only been 17 games, Tommy La Stella has made his presence known with the Braves, and the rest of the MLB has taken notice. In the first 17 games, La Stella has gone 24-62, batting .387 with an OPS of .449. His scouting report said “lacking defensively,” La Stella apparently didn’t read it; he’s boasting a fielding percentage of .988% with just one error.
There is a real sense of security that La Stella brings to the table that Uggla, Pena, and Pastornicky don’t. His coming out party was June 15th, 2014 against the Angels where he went 3-3 which included a go-ahead double in the 6th that Evan Gattis and Justin Upton scored on. Something that stuck out during that at-bat, La Stella knowing it was a pressure situation worked a 2-1 count, took a big swipe and whiffed completely. With the count 2-2, La Stella didn’t sweat it, stayed patient, laid back, and took the next pitch into right field for a double. The Braves biggest problem was leaving runners stranded on base; La Stella has done exactly what the Braves needed him to do. La Stella has nine multi-hit games, which moved him to third place in the NL among rookies in multi-hit games, except he did it in just 16 games. He doesn’t have a lot of power, but that is the least of the Braves problems at this point. Although, Fredi Gonzalez would probably love to put him early in the rotation, it would be Heyward, La Stella, then Freeman; it’s not in the Braves best interest to have three lefties bat first.
La Stella has only struck out six times in 70 plate appearances, his walk to strikeout ratio is at 1.2, which is phenomenal. The Braves desperately needed the number of strikeouts to come down, so far they have. With other players like Evan Gattis, and BJ Upton getting on base more, the Braves only real concern at this point is the bullpen. With Walden back, and Shae Simmons coming around, they’re hoping that the pen will also come around. This is a pretty young team; Freddie Freeman is probably the best player on the team (at least this season) and he’s only 24. The average age of the active position players is 26, and the average age of the starting pitching is 29, talk about a young team loaded with potential.
Gattis and La Stella have pretty much secured their positions, there aren’t many questions there. Both players have a few years before they’re even eligible for arbitration; Gattis is eligible in 2016 and La Stella in 2017. That could definitely work for the Braves considering there will be some players who will more than likely want an extension, i.e. Minor, Medlen, and Heyward, but nothing is solidified. One thing that is solidified though, Tommy La Stella can play, if he keeps it up, then ‘Rookie of the Year’ will only be the beginning of the accolades.