30 Jul

breaking through

Check out these stats: .331 average, .401 on-base percentage, 10 doubles, two triples, a homer, 21 RBIs and 19 runs in 49 games. Oh yeah, and a 17-game hitting streak that’s alive today. Those impressive stats belong to Tommy La Stella, the left-handed hitting second baseman who typically bats third for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. Now check out Baseball America’s 2013 Prospect Handbook, a brilliantly researched guide to the top players in the minor leagues. It doesn’t list Tommy La Stella among Atlanta’s top 31 prospects. That’s an indication of what an inexact science the rating of prospects can be. And La Stella’s performance this season, despite a spate of injuries, is an indication of how an ostensibly overlooked player can work his way into an organization’s plans. He’ll be in that top 30 next year for the Braves, who need some young position players to step up. La Stella was an All-American at Coastal Carolina in 2011, when he batted .398 with 14 homers and 70 RBIs. The Braves took him in the eighth round that summer. He batted .311 with 15 homers over his first two pro seasons and was a top 30 (No. 28) prospect entering 2012. Somehow he slipped despite his good production at high Class A Lynchburg, where he hit .302 despite missing six weeks with a broken leg. He started this season back at Lynchburg – but again on the disabled list (elbow injury). He batted .550 in seven games for the Hillcats before Atlanta promoted him to the M-Braves on May 6. He’s been on a roll ever since, a 12-day stay on the DL (hamstring) notwithstanding. His current hot streak has helped fuel the M-Braves, who are 18-17 and just 1.5 games out of first in the Southern League South. They play Montgomery at Trustmark Park tonight in the third game of a 5-game series. P.S. Former M-Braves outfielder Todd Cunningham has been called up by Atlanta; he is No. 78 on the list of M-Braves who have advanced to The Show.

Mike Christensen

Mike Christensen

A long-time sports fan and 30-year newspaper veteran muses on all things baseball in Mississippi. Contact: mwchristens@gmail.com
Mike Christensen

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