It has finally happened.
Tommy La Stella has a strikeout in the desert.
It happened yesterday, bottom of the 6th inning, in Scottsdale’s Arizona Fall League game with Peoria. Pitcher Alex Sogard (Houston) got him… kinda. The AJC’s David O’Brien was out there for it:
#Braves prospect La Stella just struck out first time this fall. Got behind 0-2, worked count full, rung up on pitch that looked outside.
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) October 28, 2013
Well, it was bound to happen at some point – and based on track record, I’d think you would have to argue (even without video) that La Stella was right and the umpire offered him an early Halloween trick: Tommy does have 11 walks in his 11 AFL games.
Not The AFL All-Stars
Meanwhile, TLS was given another trick this week: a snub for the AFL All-Star game. The rosters were announced, and of the seven infielders (from among only 3 teams), La Stella is not included. For that matter, I suppose they used a criteria for selection of these players that’s entirely unfamiliar to me – something like “not wanting to win the game.” Neither of the top second basemen in the league in hitting was named to the game… The selected second-sackers were Devon Travis (.235 – LaStella has almost as many walks as Devon has total bases (11 vs. 13)) and Taylor Lindsey (.279). 1B Kyle Parker was named with a .229 batting average; SS Alen Hanson is down to .250 (and is being out-played by teammate Elmer Reyes). Obviously, actual performance had very little to do with the selections. Sounds spooky.
I guess the roster pickers ultimately decided that every team should be represented… and Shae Simmons is the lone Braves’ farmhand that was named to the 25-man roster. After a rough start, Shae has picked it up: his ERA is down to 1.80 in 5 innings pitched (5K/5 walks).
The rest of the pitchers are still struggling, though Aaron Northcraft did have one good outing. But he’s still sitting at a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings; he’s 1-3 in his 4 outings. He’s given up 13 hits (2 homers) and 8 walks, though struck out 13. Juan Jaime is also giving up a lot of runs (4 earned in 6.2 innings) thanks to 5 walks vs. 8 BB. John Cornely has a 6.35 ERA in 5.2 innings. his control is a bit better (not that it was a high bar to leap) with 9K/3BB. 5 hits (1 HR) lead to 4 earned runs.
OF/DH Robby Hefflinger has settled back to a .214 hitting clip, 1 HR and 5 RBI in 11 games. Meanwhile, the rest of the Braves’ guys are still hitting very well: 3B Kyle Kubitza: .273, Elmer Reyes .280, and of course La Stella: .351 with a .500 OBP and 1.122 OPS.
La Stella Highlighted – Uggla Speculation
The media is picking up on the success Tommy has enjoyed in the past year – and now in the AFL in particular. BaseballAmerica.com made him a featured story yesterday – which probably jinxed him to that first strikeout :D. You can read about him here (with video).
In addition, David O’Brien also penned a piece about him that you can read here. But allow me to harvest a quote from that:
While Braves officials haven’t come right out and said La Stella is a candidate for the second-base job if Dan Uggla is traded, there have been recent discussions within the organization and it is believed that La Stella could indeed come to camp with a shot at the job if Uggla is dealt. And it’s believed the Braves are willing to eat a big part of the remaining $26 million Uggla is owed in order to move him.
There’s a lot of speculation in there, but I will also say that thus far, no one from the Braves’ organization has come to the media and declared “no, that’s just not the case: Dan Uggla is our second baseman and will be for the life of his contract.” If pressed, Frank Wren would probably say something like that, punctuated with words like “we expect him to be”. But in the absence of new, direct quotes, I do believe that O’Brien’s speculation is accurate: the Braves are likely trying to move Dan.
That’s all from Arizona right now: the Caribbean Winter Leagues are also underway… hopefully I can get a report on those to you within the next week or so.