It was a storybook season for LA Angel second baseman Tommy La Stella as the former reserve infielder took advantage of a chance to play every day when Zack Cozart went down early in the season with a shoulder injury that ended his season.
LA Angels second baseman Tommy La Stella had never hit more than five home runs in a season in his five-year major league career and had only 10 total dingers. In just under half a season (78 games) La Stella hit 16 homers in 283 at-bats and drove in 44 runs will hitting .300. La Stella shattered all his career-highs in all three of those categories (home runs, RBIs, and batting average).
La Stella was a finalist for the starting second baseman spot on the AL All-Star team. He finished first in the original popular vote just beating out the Astros Jose Altuve and the Yankees D.J. Lemahieu. However he lost out in the new baseball starters election where the top three vote-getters at each position have a final run-off of sorts. However, a week later La Stella was named to the AL All-Star team as a reserve through the player voting component.
“This season was a step in the right direction. Getting to play every day was nice,” La Stella said. “It was really special to make the All-Star team. It was a nice personal accomplishment. It was nice for my friends and family back home who had been supporting me all the way.”
He seemed to be on top of the world, but then disaster struck. First one of La Stella’s biggest supporters throughout the whole final vote campaign, Tyler Skaggs, tragically passed away on July 1st. Two days later against Texas La Stella ruled a ball off his right shin and he crumpled to the ground in agony. The x-rays revealed La Stella had a fractured right tibia which would not only keep him from playing in the mid-summer classic, but also cause him to miss nine weeks so far.
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The good news for La Stella is that he is now nearing a return to the field. He has been taking live batting practice the past week and was hoping to return this past weekend in Chicago, but some residual soreness has delayed his return at least a few more days. On Monday night when the Angels returned home La Stella again took batting practice and he says that the return is getting close.
“I’m feeling good obviously it’s a process, but I’m getting closer each day. I don’t have an official timetable, we are just taking it day-by-day,” La Stella said. “It was an unfortunate injury, but it is part of the game. It happens.”
When La Stella went out with the injury the Angels were 44-43 and still in the wild-card race only trailing by four games, but since La Stella’s injury the team is 23-35 and is now close to being mathematically eliminated from the playoff hunt. La Stella hopes to just get back and play some games before the season ends.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in there hopefully soon and trying to working on making some strides before toward next year,” La Stella said.
La Stella, who is under club control for 2020 as he cannot declare for free agency is anxious to come back to the Angels for another season.
“I’m looking forward to it, it’s a great spot to be in here. I have really enjoyed my time here this year. It’s a great organization, good leadership. The team’s awesome, I’ve really enjoyed it,” La Stella said “We have some great players here If we make some more additions (in the off-season) we will be in a good spot. I’m looking forward to competing in Spring Training.. We have a great team here, it will shake out how it shakes out, but I’m sure there will be plenty of AB’s (at-bats) to go around.”
Hopefully we will see Tommy La Stella back on the this home stand and maybe he will have an outside chance of reaching the 20 home run plateau. As for next year, as La Stella spoke of, there could be a major logjam in the infield with Matt Thaiss, Luis Rengifo, David Fletcher, La Stella, and potentially Zack Cozart fighting for two infield spots at second and third base with Andrelton Simmons firmly entrenched at shortstop. Thaiss can also play first base and may not play much third in 2020.
One other name to at least keep in mind is Taylor Ward who has hit 27 home runs this season in Salt Lake City. Ward also drove in 71 runs and hit .305 in 421 at-bats. Ward only has played in nine games for the Angels in 2019 going 1 for 10 (.100) so far after playing in 40 games for the Angels in 2018.
Good Luck Tommy hope to have you back soon!