Should the Angels expect Tommy La Stella to revert to form in 2020?
The Los Angeles Angels found themselves quite the bargain last season when they picked up Tommy La Stella in a winter trade with the Chicago Cubs. For the meager price of Connor Lillis-White, the Angels added a versatile utility man who could provide solid bench depth for the club.
At least, that was what they thought they were getting.
La Stella ended up being a major surprise for the team in 2019, putting up a career-best 2.0 fWAR on the back of a .295/.346/.486 slash line, 16 home runs, and 44 RBI. FanGraphs valued his production at $16.2 million based on his fWAR. Given he earned just $1.35 million last season, the Angels received quite a bit of bang for their buck.
With that kind of jump in production at the tender age of 30, skeptics are bound to line up and question how much of it can be sustained. After all, we’re talking about a player that had never put together more than five home runs or 31 RBI in a season and had only once before registered a wRC+ greater than the 122 he managed last season (126 in 2017, but half the at-bats). In other words, there was no writing on the wall to predict this outbreak.
There is certainly something to be said about La Stella capitalizing on an opportunity here, taking advantage of the absolute failure of Zack Cozart and seeing his most plate appearances since his rookie season in 2014. However, it wouldn’t be prudent for the Angels to assume that they will get nearly that level of production out of La Stella again in 2020.
The good news is that the team doesn’t need to bank on a repeat for La Stella either. The addition of Anthony Rendon and the presence of David Fletcher and Andrelton Simmons pushes the La Stella back to a utility role, where he can spell players around the infield. His salary rose to $3.25 million in 2020, but he’s likely to still see enough at-bats this season to still have value in that deal, even if he isn’t producing at herculean levels.