There is now a chance La Stella will get a call sooner, rather than later
The morning after the Braves lost an eighth consecutive game on May 28, 2012, this blog was filled with an entry that revealed Andrelton Simmons would likely soon be promoted to Atlanta and Kris Medlen would soon move from the bullpen to the rotation. Simmons got his call one day later and Medlen ended up having to wait two more months before becoming a starting pitcher on a full-time basis.
Now that the Braves find themselves in the midst of of a six-game losing streak — their longest since that 2012 skid, there is reason to wonder if Tommy La Stella might soon be promoted to Atlanta to aid an ailing offense. As of Sunday, it appeared a potential La Stella promotion was likely at least a few weeks away. But as we’ve often seen, these kinds of decisions can be expedited when a club is in the midst of a stretch as miserable as the one the Braves have recently encountered.
This is not to say La Stella will be added to Atlanta’s lineup this week. But it now at least seems to be a possibility that he could replace Dan Uggla as Atlanta’s starting second baseman sooner, rather than later.
La Stella has batted .313 with a .372 on-base percentage through his first 27 games with Triple-A Gwinnett. The 25-year-old second baseman lacks power and might actually be a little less effective with the glove than Uggla. But while producing a .408 on-base percentage during his professional career, he has provided indication that he has the potential to provide much-needed contact presence to a Braves lineup that has been lifeless over the past week.
The Braves certainly aren’t thrilled with the prospect of potentially eating the approximate $24 million Uggla is owed through the end of the 2015 season. But they are less excited about the prospect of continuing to play him on an everyday basis with the hope that he will escape the woes that have plagued him over the past 23 months.
Thus they have reached that point where they are now at least discussing any all options regarding Uggla, who has batted .186 with 35 home runs and a .657 OPS in 265 games dating back to June 1, 2012. Just seven other Major Leaguers — B.J. Upton included — have produced a lower OPS while playing at least 250 games during this span.
After watching them both endure the most frustrating season of their careers last year, the Braves entered this season hoping Uggla and Upton would turn things around. Upton has at least shown some signs of improvement as he has compiled a .735 OPS in the 21 games he has played since enduring a rough first week to this season.
Uggla batted .237 with two home runs (both hit on the same night) and a .671 OPS through his first 16 games of the season. But he has recorded five hits (all singles) and struck out 13 times in the 41 at-bats that have followed.
Uggla is certainly not the reason the Braves have totaled 23 runs in their past 11 games and tallied less than two runs against six of the past seven starting pitchers they have faced. Given that Atlanta’s offense has produced through his past struggles, it might be more appropriate to blame this abysmal output on the more dependable lineup members who have struggled through these past 11 games. Freddie Freeman has batted .163 with one extra-base hit and Chris Johnson has hit .206 with no extra base hits.
Unfortunately for the Braves, this offensive swoon has come as Jason Heyward has escaped his early-season woes and provided consistent production in the leadoff spot. Heyward has hit .315 with a .345 on-base percentage over his past 13 games.
If Heyward extends this trend and Freeman returns to form, Atlanta a lineup that is more than capable to consistently support their pitching staff. But it remains to be seen how much longer the Braves will be willing to include Uggla in this lineup.