Every successful baseball team has that key player off the bench. Tommy La Stella excels at that role for the Chicago Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs major league roster is carefully crafted and meticulously planned. Every player is there to contribute in his own specific way. The Cubs have their superstars in Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and are deep in versatility with the likes of Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ. Every piece in the Cubs lineup is key to competing, and an important part of the roster is the 25th man. And that’s where Tommy La Stella contributes.
La Stella is the prototypical man off the bench in baseball. It may have taken some time, but Tommy understands his role with the Cubs. He refused to report to triple-A Iowa in 2016, claiming he didn’t deserve to be sent down. The Cubs gave La Stella time to weigh his options, and the New Jersey native made the right decision by accepting the promotion, and he now has a World Series ring to show for it.
What is his role exactly?
La Stella is a spot starter and a pinch hitter. He’s a second baseman by trade but is also adept at playing third base. He’s got a smooth left-handed swing and consistently hits line drives. In fact, La Stella is second on the Cubs in line drive percentage. His 23.9% of balls hit on a line trails only Jon Jay who boasts a 27.7 LD%. That’s precisely the type of hitter the Cubs want coming off the bench late in the games, “the guy could wake up in the middle of the night, hit a line drove on a 1-2 count” says Maddon. His defensive skills are nothing to shy away from either. In 25 games so far in 2017, Tommy has made only one error in 133 innings.
He has the stats to prove it.
The 28-year-old infielder is impressive with his line-drive stroke but it’s his ability to get on base that makes him so valuable. In 2016, he bested the Major League average on-base percentage of .270 by 87 points and finished with an OBP of .357. As of this writing, he’s sitting pretty getting on base .402 percent of the time and has a .293 batting average to boot.
As a pinch-hitter in 2017, Tommy is 7-for-20 with three RBIs and seven walks. He’s also 5 out of 15 with runners in scoring position for the season with five runs knocked in. He doesn’t hit for power (Two of his six career bombs have come this season) but he has good gap-to-gap power and sprays the ball all over the field.
What’s the final verdict on #2?
Even though the Cubs’ uber bench player has the stats to show how productive he is, there is no way to show how valuable a player like Tommy La Stella is. He’s been optioned to the Majors five times throughout the season, and he always picks up where he left off. The bench role is one of the intangibles in baseball that too often go unnoticed. Having a player like La Stella on the bench every day makes Maddon’s life easier – he has a lefty stick off the bench ready at a moment’s notice to pinch hit. He has a line drive hitter capable of handling favorable starters who can play at
He has a line drive hitter capable of handling favorable starters who can play at second or third base. His OBP is a strength off the bench that favors beautifully into the Cubs productive lineup. Plus, he’s inexpensive. His salary is 532,000 a year. Sure he could be a valuable trade piece and would certainly garner starts on another club, but he’s the perfect depth piece for the Cubs vying for another deep post-season run. He’s stellar. Tommy La Stellar.