Let's take a look at 10 of the most important attributes that should help to indicate what a prospect’s future might hold. Players are ranked on a scale of 1-10 by their qualities for each aspect, accumulating in a final prospect grade. Grades are based on what prospects can bring to the table from the current position they are projected to play in the major leagues.
Without further ado, let’s find out if Tommy La Stella makes the grade…
1) Baseball IQ – The Braves top second base prospect has used his baseball knowledge to become one of the top hitting prospects in the organization. Tommy La Stella’s ability to hit for a high average even when behind in the count makes him one of the toughest outs in the minor leagues. Rating: 10 out of 10.
2) Batting-Eye – The second baseman of the future in Atlanta doesn’t walk much, but he strikes out even less. As of 5/22, La Stella has struck out a total of 73 times since the beginning of the 2012 season. The contact skills here will carry this prospect to the big leagues. Rating: 10 out of 10.
3) Hit-Tool – This New Jersey native put himself on the prospect radar after batting .356 between two levels in 2013. While Braves’ fans are reaching their boiling point with Dan Uggla and his 0-4er’s, La Stella will be a welcome addition as the "anti-Uggla" in the batting average department. Rating: 10 out of 10.
4) Power – After swatting 9 long-balls after signing in 2011, the second baseman followed that up with 6 HR’s in 2012, then 5 HR’s in 2013. So far, La Stella has failed to go yard in 2014. La Stella looks like a 5-to-10 HR bat a year in the big leagues. Rating: 6 out of 10.
5) Speed – La Stella has recorded 22 stolen bases over the course of his minor league career in well over 900 AB’s. Speed is not his game, but the prospect can take advantage when the opportunity arises. At this point, La Stella looks capable of producing anywhere from 5-to-15 SB’s per season. Rating: 7 out of 10.
6) Body – At 5’11" and 185 pounds, this prospect looks more like your "Average Joe" than a professional athlete. But then so does Dustin Pedroia… Rating: 8 out of 10.
7) Durability – "Keeping him on the field has really been one of the challenges," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "But when he plays, offensively, he’s done everything we could hope and more." The prospect has failed to log more than 90 games in a season yet. Rating: 6 out of 10.
8) Ceiling – Although it might be a stretch to think La Stella is capable of putting up 20-20 seasons in his prime, the same thing was thought about a similar minor league skill set by the name of Dustin Pedroia. If everything goes perfectly, it just might happen… Rating: 9 out of 10.
9) Floor – La Stella’s hit tool should allow him to bat for enough average to become a big league regular. But the power and speed numbers could end up looking very pedestrian, possibly making him a fantasy option in the mold of Omar Infante. Rating: 6 out of 10.
10) Future – The most realistic outcome for this prospect might be that of a 10 HR + 10 SB, high batting average option at a weak position. Depending on what becomes of the 2B position, those stats could equate in value to a player near the same caliber as Howie Kendrick. Rating: 8 out of 10.
Overall Grade: 80% - B-
Future Outlook: As you can see, Tommy La Stella is a very unique fantasy prospect. The second baseman ranks right up there with the league’s top prospects when it comes to his hit tool and batting eye. But the potential to put up significant totals of home runs and stolen bases is what keeps La Stella from joining the elite. There is the possibility that those tools could develop further down the road, but that is no guarantee. If that were to happen, the Braves could have their own version of Dustin Pedroia. That would be a best case scenario, and shouldn’t be used as an expected comp. I think a player in the mold of a Howie Kendrick is the most likely scenario here, which is still a quality fantasy option in his own right. I believe Tommy La Stella can become a top 12 fantasy second baseman in his prime if things work out. Just don’t get him confused with the elite fantasy prospects out there and pay top dollar for Dan Uggla’s soon-to-be future replacement.