In the last 24 hours, ok maybe 12 hours, the name Brandon Phillips has been ringing in Braves fans around the Nation. As our writers here at Tomahawk Take has covered this situation already, Phillips could make a drastic improvement at the second base position for the Braves in 2014. But what about another name, one that is already in the Braves system, is he ready for the majors?
Tommy La Stella, a 24-year-old 5’11” 185 pound second base is waiting in the wings and soaring through the Braves minor league system with his bat. He started 2013 with the Single A Lynchburg Hillcats only playing in seven games while hitting .550 with 11 hits in 20 at bats. The Braves moved him up quickly to Double A Mississippi Braves where he went on to hit .343 for the season with 21 doubles, two triples and four home runs. In the 81 games played at Mississippi he had seven stolen bases.
Every stop he’s made in the Braves organization he’s hit and hit well – batting over .300 in every team he has been with.
Now with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League, Tommy continues to swing the bat well. He has appeared in the six games played by the Scorpions and has managed to get a base hit in each of his games. His batting average so far is .444 with four doubles, six RBIs, 10 walks and a stolen base – AND has no recored a strikeout yet!! He carries a six game hitting streak into todays again against the Peoria Javelinas.
La Stella is getting the label as a “real baseball player” and a “gamer,” as he’s a gritty, hard-nosed type. He also has shown an ability to hit – after hitting .384 in college, he hit .328 during his pro debut.
The left-handed hitter gets on base and rarely strikes out. He has fringy speed but has excellent instincts on the basepaths. To have La Stella and Andrelton Simmons in the middle of the Braves infield sounds like a great idea in my mind.
Ranked #18 among Braves prospects by MLB.com entering the 2013 season, La Stella was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the eighth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Coastal Carolina University. While at Coastal Carolina, was named 2011 Big South Conference Player of the Year and was a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy as national player of the year. He also led the conference in hits (92), runs scored (59), homers (14) and RBIs (70) and ranked second in batting (.398). In 2011, he was selected a Louisville Slugger All-American.
If the Braves do manage to acquire Brandon Phillips, La Stella can have a full season in 2014 at Triple A. If the Braves are unable to have Phillips on their 2014 roster, La Stella may be able to work himself into the lineup with a terrific winter league showing and spring training….see Gattis, Evan for an example.