It’s time for the Chicago Cubs to give Tommy La Stella the extended playing time that his peers have received this season.
In the midst of an up-and-down season, the Chicago Cubs have given the majority of their players extended playing time. One player, however, stands out amongst his peers in regards to not receiving such playing time: Tommy La Stella.
The Cubs recalled La Stella from Triple-A Iowa Friday because Ben Zobrist was placed on the 10-day DL. This already will be La Stella’s third stint with the Cubs this season; despite making the Opening Day roster, La Stella has been demoted and subsequently recalled to the MLB on two occasions.
La Stella has fallen victim to a numbers game since last season. Essentially, the Cubs have demoted him to Triple-A Iowa numerous times because A) he has minor league options left, meaning the team can send him down without exposing him to waivers, and B) many top prospects have passed him on the depth chart.
Odd man out
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During the 2016 season, demoting La Stella to the minor leagues was truly a no-brainer. Like La Stella, infielders Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell have minor league options available. However, all three played tremendously, so demoting any of them opposed to La Stella would have been foolish.
Unlike 2016, the aforementioned young Cubs infielders have struggled offensively for a bulk of the season. While all three have shown flashes, Bryant has been one of the few Cubs, in general, to hit on a consistent basis.
In 231 at-bats entering Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bryant’s slash line is .268, 15 HR and 28 RBI. For the sake of comparison, Báez is hitting .240 with 10 HR and 28 RBI in 175 at-bats; Russell is hitting .214 with 5 HR and 23 RBI in 196 at-bats.
When they are not struggling like they have been this season, Báez and Russell are undoubtedly better options than La Stella. Unfortunately, the pair has struggled for much of the season, with Russell struggling more so than Báez.
Tough start to season for Cubs young infielders
After hitting .258 in April, Russell hit just .162 in May and has hit just .200 in June. Earlier this month, he faced domestic violence allegations and reportedly faced league investigation. Not only has Russell struggled on the field, but he could be going through something serious off the field as well.
Russell provides tremendous value to the Cubs both offensively and defensively, so demoting him would be a tough decision to make. Personal issues aside, though, demoting him should be something the team considers if his offensive struggles linger.
If the Cubs do not want to demote Russell and his valuable defense, they could consider Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber is hitting just .178 this season and is a below-average outfielder. However, he does have 12 HR this season and has actually hit .250 in June entering Friday.
It’s not going to be Schwarber
It would take a lot to demote Schwarber; despite his struggles, the team has had all season to send him to the minor leagues and they have not to this point. One way or another, though, La Stella deserves a longer stay with the Cubs than he has this season.
While the sample size is small, La Stella is hitting .304 in 23 at-bats with the Cubs this season. These numbers are quite misleading, though; La Stella hit .250 in April but only received four at-bats. In 19 at-bats in May, he hit .316.
La Stella also provides a skill-set that the Cubs are in desperate need of: contact-hitting. Offensively, the Cubs have tended to rely on hitting home runs to score runs in 2017. La Stella has some home run power, but he does not rely on it.
Essentially, La Stella could help the team score runs without hitting the ball out of the park. If he continues to hit during his stint with the team, they must consider keeping him on the roster for the sake of the offense’s success.