by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Braves Tommy La Stella fell short of last week’s Prospect Power Rankings, but it wasn’t by much (and he made today’s list). As Dan Uggla continues to struggle it is becoming crystal clear that La Stella is going to soon get his opportunity to man second base in Atlanta.
So why did he fall short of our rankings? Unfortunately he simply may not bring much to the table, limiting any potential fantasy appeal.
Entering play on Monday La Stella was hitting .298 with 0 HR and 1 SB at Triple-A. Last season he spent the bulk of his time at Double-A (283 AB) with just 4 HR and 7 SB. It’s not to say that he’s a completely useless option, but we also have to know his upside.
The kid can hit. There is no arguing that fact. He owns a career minor league average of .324 and OBP of .408. Is the BABIP potentially slightly inflated (.338)? Maybe, but it’s also nothing that’s going to red flag us. He simply brings a terrific eye to the plate (8.7% strikeout rate vs. 11.2% walk rate) and has a good feel for the strike zone.
Baseball America gave a great scouting report of him, as they ranked him as the team’s ninth best prospect entering the season:
“La Stella has hit at every level thanks to great hand-eye coordination and above-average bat speed. He has an excellent approach and exceptional feel for the strike zone, which helps him rack up more walks than strikeouts. La Stella also shines as a situational hitter with his ability to advance runners via the hit-and-run or by bunting. He runs the bases well and with intelligence despite not being blessed with great quick-twitch athleticism.”
It sounds impressive and there is going to be value. John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked him as the team’s second best prospect, drawing a comparison to Matt Carpenter (and Allen Craig) of the St. Louis Cardinals. The biggest question, though, is if the Braves are willing to put him towards the top of the lineup. Right now, I just don’t see it.
Jason Heyward is locked into the leadoff spot and, if someone is going to be pushed up to the second spot, you would have to believe it would be Andrelton Simmons. That would leave La Stella, with little power and little speed, to toil in the eighth spot of the lineup. Not ideal to say the least.
Obviously, in NL-only and the deepest of mixed leagues he could hold value as a source of average from the middle infield (if he can stay healthy). Outside of that, however, the potential fantasy impact just isn’t there.
Sources – Minor League Baseball, Minor League Central, Baseball Reference, Baseball America, Minor League Ball