Tommy La Stella

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Thomas Frank La Stella

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Biographical Information[edit]

Second baseman Tommy La Stella has played in the Atlanta Braves minor league system since 2011 and made his big league debut in 2014. He was drafted by the club in the 8th round of the 2011 amateur draft after hitting .398/.476/.680 with 14 home runs and 70 RBI for Coastal Carolina University during his final college season.

La Stella was signed by scout Billy Best for a reported $105,000 and began his professional career with the Rome Braves and hit .328/.401/.543 with 9 home runs and 40 RBI in 63 games. He was named a Organizational All-Star following the season. The next year, he hit .299/.389/.466 with 13 stolen bases, 40 walks and only 25 strikeouts in 90 games between the GCL Braves and Lynchburg Hillcats, earning a spot on the Carolina League Mid-Season All-Star team and again being named an Organizational All-Star. In 2013, La Stella hit .356/.444/.492 with 5 home runs, 45 RBI, 45 walks and only 35 strikeouts in 88 games split between Lynchburg - where he hit .550/.690/.750 in 20 at-bats - and the Mississippi Braves. He was named a Topps Double-A All-Star and member of the AFL All-Prospect Team following the campaign. Prior to 2014, ranked him the 18th best prospect in the Braves system. He began the year with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves, where he hit .293 in 47 games.

With 2B Dan Uggla struggling in Atlanta, Tommy was called up to the big club in late May and made his debut on May 28th, going 2-for-4 against the Boston Red Sox. He immediately took over as the team's regular second baseman and wound being the player most used at the position that year, hitting .251 in 93 games, with 36 walks. However, the Braves were concerned about his lack of power - he hit only one triple and one homer that season - and his limited range at second base, and when the season wound down, another rookie, Phil Gosselin, was seeing a lot of playing time at second. On November 16th, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in return for P Arodys Vizcaino, but was moving to a team with an overload of middle infielders, making his immediate future uncertain.

Tommy played only 33 games for the Cubs in 2015, hitting .269 with 1 homer and 11 RBIs. He missed a good chunk of the season because of a rib cage injury he suffered in the first days of April which had him sidelined until late August, apart from a couple of short minor league stays. In spite of that, he made the postseason roster but was a combined 0 for 10 as he saw action in all three series the Cubs played that year: the Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and the Championship Series against the New York Mets. He also played a total of 19 minor league games, split between the AA Tennessee Smokies and AAA Iowa Cubs, while working his way back into shape. In 2016, he made the Cubs' roster out of spring training and apart from a week with Iowa on a rehabilitation assignment at the end of June, spent the entire first half with the team while it was one of the strongest in the major leagues. He contributed to their success by hitting .295/.388/.457 in 51 games as one of the Cubs' top pinch-hitters while also filling in at third base and second. It was thus a major disappointment for him when on July 29th, he was optioned back to Iowa to make room on the major league roster for OF Chris Coghlan, who was coming off the disabled list. Although the team explained it was strictly a business decision, as they had too many healthy players and La Stella was the one who still had a minor league option available, he refused to report to AAA. On August 9th, as he had still not made up his mind about what he wanted to do, he was placed on the restricted list. For his part, La Stella, who was continuing to work out from his New Jersey home, stated that he was contemplating retirement as he was unsure he wanted to remain on a permanent shuttle between the minors and the Show. He did agree to report to the minors on August 17th, first spending a few days with AA Tennessee before going to Iowa. He rejoined the Cubs on August 31st, taking the place of reliever Spencer Patton, as manager Joe Maddon wanted to start him at second game against Ryan Vogelsong of the Pittsburgh Pirates one day before rosters expanded. He went o for 2 before giving way to a pinch-hitter in the 6th inning.

On November 29, 2018, La Stella was traded by the Cubs to the Los Angeles Angels for "cash considerations or a player to be named later" (the Cubs eventually sent minor leaguer Conor Lillis-White to the Cubs after the 2018 Rule V Draft). He finally got the chance to play regularly with the Angels in 2019, being handed the starting second base job, and it was a revelation. After hitting just 10 homers in his first five seasons, he matched that total in just 36 games with L.A., hitting number 10 on May 13th off Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins. He also had 24 RBIs and 22 runs. He continued to hit after that and barely lost out to D.J. LeMahieu of the New York Yankees in the vote for the starting 2B at the 2019 All-Star Game, but he was added to the team as a reserve player. However, two days later, on July 2nd, in the Angels' first game after the tragic death of Tyler Skaggs, he fouled a pitch by Jose Leclerc of the Texas Rangers, off his leg and broke his right tibia and had to go on the injured list, missing the All-Star Game as well and the remainder of the season except for two late September games during which he was 1 for 9 with a double. His final batting line was .295 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs, with an OPS+ of 118.

He was back in the starting line-up when the 2020 season finally started in late July, and over his first 28 games hit .273 with 4 homers and 14 RBIs. These numbers looked superficially unremarkable, but his OPS+ of 130 was even better than that of his All-Star season and in fact the highest of his career. With the Angels mired in the bottom of the standings, he was one of the first players to change teams before the trading deadline, moved to August 31st for that season only, and he was sent to division rivals the Oakland Athletics on August 28th, in return for IF Franklin Barreto. He had been a utility player - albeit an everyday one - with the Angels, but was likely to claim a full-time starting job at second base for the A's. He his .289 in 27 games for the Athletics with an OPS+ of 122. His overall mark was a solid .281 in 55 games, with 5 homers, 31 runs and 25 RBIs, for an OPS+ of 126. In the postseason, he went 8 for 27 (.296) with 5 runs, 1 homer and 2 RBIs in 7 games as the A's exited at the Division Series stage.

He was a free agent following the 2020 season and in the spring of 2021 signed with the San Francisco Giants. He was part of their magical season that year, when they came out of nowhere to finish one game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West with 107 wins, but he was not one of the main contributors to the surge. Injuries limited him to 75 games, and his hitting fell back significantly in comparison to the two previous seasons, as he batted .250 with 7 homers and 27 RBIs for an OPS+ of 92. He did appear in all five games of the epic Division Series which the Giants lost to the Dodgers, going 3 for 9, but without an extra-base hit or an RBI. In 2022, his offensive production continued to drop as he batted .239 in 60 games while the Giants fell back in the standings. He hit only 2 homers and drove in 14 runs, with his OPS+ falling to 78 - the lowest of his career. As a result, the Giants decided to cut him loose the following January. On January 19, 2023, he signed with the Seattle Mariners on a one-year deal, hoping to get his career back on track in the division where he had had the most success.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2019)
  • Won one World Series with the Chicago Cubs in 2016 (he did not play in the World Series)

Related Sites[edit]