The LA Angels made a lot of noise this offseason, but one move that didn’t get many headlines was the trade for Tommy La Stella.
However, the 30-year old utility man might be just what the LA Angels need. No, he isn’t the ace pitcher the team craves (though he did pitch 1.1 innings last year), but La Stella is the ideal bench option for the Halos heading into 2019.
In the past, La Stella has spent time at second, third, and first base. He has been a solid contributor throughout his career, and was relied on a lot by the Chicago Cubs in 2019, where he played 123 games between three positions. He was one of the best reserves in baseball last season, and could see even more production in Anaheim.
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While La Stella has never been seen as an everyday starter, he has a chance of that with the Angels. As of now, the only competition he has for the second base job is David Fletcher, who would be the incumbent after an exceptional rookie season in 2018. However, the two could also end up as a platoon come Opening Day, with La Stella hitting from the left side of the plate, and Fletcher from the right.
Even if Fletcher outplays him in Spring Training and subsequently wins the everyday job, La Stella is an excellent option to have off the bench. He has had a .274/.360/.396 line over the past three seasons, and those numbers are even higher for La Stella when he is used as a pinch hitter rather than a starter.
For a general manager in Billy Eppler, who puts great value on versatility, La Stella is exactly the type of player you’d want coming off the bench. He has played three of the four infield positions in the past(and could probably handle shortstop in a pinch), makes good contact off the bench, and is a genuinely smart hitter, as his walk-to-strikeout ratio has been favorable throughout his career.
While one would hope for better stolen bases numbers (4 career stolen bases) from the player likely pinch running for Albert Pujols late in games, La Stella has adequate enough speed for those instances. And if the angels want more of a threat late in games, whoever ends up as the fourth outfielder in Anaheim will be a threat to opposing teams’ catchers.
Overall, La Stella has had a phenomenal career as a bench player thus far. Going into 2019 with a new team in the Angels, his role will likely be similar to what he has done for the Cubs in years past. And just like Eppler wants from his players, La Stella will be capable of handling any task given to him.