The Atlanta Braves could have a new second baseman this season and his name is Tommy LaStella. He probably won’t be in the Braves starting line-up on opening day, may not even be on the roster. But he could be looking for Atlanta living accommodations early in the season, if incumbent Dan Uggla continues his struggles.
Many Braves fans have been frustrated with Dan Uggla’s play since he became an Atlanta player. Despite his sketchy play, Uggla has kept his regular season job due to the force field around him known as a big money, long-term contract. It appears that force field may have weakened, as being left off last season’s playoff roster gave a good sign that the Braves have lost patience with Uggla’s hitting problems.
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Last season the Braves jumped off to a comfortable division lead over the Washington Nationals and were never really threatened. That lead allowed manager Fredi Gonzalez to be patient with Uggla and his partner in struggles, center fielder B.J. Upton, through most of the regular season.
The Nationals main problem last season was multiple injuries to key players. The Braves cannot count on that happening again in the 2014 season. Washington made off-season deals that have strengthened their club, and will be hungry. So in other words, Gonzalez could be forced this season to bench players who aren’t hitting early in the season, or risk falling too far between the Nationals. Or perhaps even falling out of playoff contention.
Tommy LaStella possesses a skill that is sorely lacking in the Atlanta Braves line-up. He is a contact hitter that knows how to get on base. LaStella is a .327 minor league hitter with a .412 on-base-percentage. He also has some power, 20 homers in three seasons, with a .908 slugging percentage.
Although not known for his speed, LaStella has stolen 23 bases in 29 attempts in his minor league career. With his ability to get on base and make contact, could LaStella be a key addition to the top of the line-up? Even though Jason Heyward did a very good job leading off last season, should a guy with his power be hitting in the middle of the order?
Even though LaStella has only been in the minors for three seasons, he is a mature 25 years old. It appears he is ready to make the jump to “The Show.” Are the Braves ready to ring out the old and ring in the new?
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