Throughout the minor league season, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will look at a number of prospects for your fantasy and dynasty teams. Some will be prospects that you'll see this year in the majors, while others are interesting targets in longer term formats. Up today is a potential replacement for Dan Uggla in Atlanta, second base prospect Tommy La Stella
Weight: 185 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: No
Protect After: 2016 Season
DOB: 1/31/1989 (Age 25 Season)
After spending his freshman year at St. John's, La Stella transferred to Coastal Carolina for the rest of his college career. He sat out the year as a result, but hit .378 with 14 home runs his second-year sophomore season, and followed up with a .398 batting average and another 14 home runs. The Braves drafted him in the 8th round in 2011, and sent him to Low-A Rome to finish the year. In 63 games, he hit 328/.401/.543 with 9 home runs, 40 RBI and two steals.
He missed substantial time during the 2012 season, but did hit .302/.386/.440 with 5 home runs in 85 games at High-A. Included in that was an interesting 36:24 walk to strikeout rate, good for a 10% walk rate with just a 6% strikeout rate. He returned to High-A in late April 2013, and was promoted to AA Mississippi after appearing in just 7 games. He missed most of the month of June last year with a strained hamstring, but still hit .356/.444/.492 with five home runs, eight steals, and a 45:35 BB/K rate again. He built on that with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, and this year has been playing with AAA Gwinnett so far. In 33 games this year, he is hitting .297/.379/.322 with 16 walks and 11 strikeouts.
The Scouting Report
Hit (AVG): La Stella is going to be carried by the strength of his hit tool. He has consistently posted excellent batting averages in the minors, and shown an excellent understanding of the strike zone throughout. The reports on his abilities at the plate seem to point to the prototypical #2 hitter, capable of excellent situational hitting in front of the heart of the order. He's capable of providing a .290+ batting average on a consistent basis, with a high OBP to go along with it.
Power (HR, RBI): While La Stella hit for power in college, it's not clear that he will provide more than a few token home runs each year. His swing isn't really built for power, and his stature doesn't help him with it either.
Speed (R, SB): He is not considered a fast runner, but more one who is smart and will outperform the raw tool itself. I can see him providing five to seven stolen bases a season in a great year.
Defense: Already at second base on the defensive spectrum, La Stella will be carried to the majors on the strength of his bat. He's not going to kill a team on defense, but he's not going to set the world on fire with its' quality either. There had been reports out of college that he would end up playing in left field if he made the majors at all, but those seem to have been quieted of late.
When Could He Arrive in the Majors?
I keep including La Stella in the Buy and Hold rankings, as I think the Braves will cut bait on Dan Uggla at some point in the next month or so. He's just hitting that badly, and La Stella could fit very nicely within the Braves' lineup as constructed right now.
What Can He Do for Your Fantasy Team?
La Stella is an interesting deeper league play, and someone of interest if you are looking specifically for batting average. In shallower leagues, I can see him being a potential starter at MI to fill in specific gaps in batting average, and in deeper leagues should be a back-end second base option. A line of .295/.380/.400 with a few home runs, a few steals, and 70+ runs over a full season seems pretty reasonable to me.
La Stella is an interesting name given that he might be overlooked since he doesn't provide big numbers in the counting categories, but can be a bit undervalued given his propensity to hit for a high average and make a lot of contact. He's a prospect that gets overlooked at times, but is on the cusp of getting a shot at a starting job and can provide value should it happen sooner rather than later.
The Baseball Cube