A streetcar named Tommy La Stella

It might be time to slide <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9545/" data-ylk="slk:Tommy La Stella">Tommy La Stella</a> onto your roster, at least in deeper leagues (AP/Mark J. Terrill)
It might be time to slide Tommy La Stella onto your roster, at least in deeper leagues (AP/Mark J. Terrill)

Some baseball writers get into the gig to write about Mike Trout, Max Scherzer, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich — the stars of the game; the monoliths, the marketing darlings.

Me, I’m all about the Tommy La Stellas. Someone has to buy off the rack. These stories need to be told, too.

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La Stella has been an inconsequential journeyman to this point in his career. A modest college run at Coastal Carolina led to him being an eighth-round pick in 2011. He was never a rated prospect; no one stocked up on La Stella rookie cards. He showed occasional value as a part-timer with the Cubs; in 2017, he had an OPS+ of 122 over 151 plate appearances.

Maybe this year, in Anaheim, is when things get interesting. La Stella is only batting .237, but he has six home runs in 59 at-bats. He’s also walked eight times against four strikeouts — he’s always had decent bat control and plate discipline. The .559 slugging percentage is far and away his career best.

Today’s average isn’t a selling point, but keep in mind La Stella is a career .263 hitter with a solid .345 OBP. Maybe he’s finally figuring out the pop game, to go with some other playable skills. Contact is a currency in today’s strikeout/homer world.

The Angels are treating La Stella as a strong-side-of-platoon option. He’s become a regular against right-handed pitching, but he hasn’t started any game against a lefty yet. This might be a case of over-managing, or misunderstanding in-house talent — La Stella’s career OPS is almost identical versus lefties and righties. But the Angels don’t ask us how to fill out the lineup card.

Here’s what we do know: The Angels only have three offensive players currently producing: Trout, Brian Goodwin, and La Stella. At some point, manager Brad Ausmus might figure La Stella is a better option than Zack Cozart (slashing an anemic .111/.159/.127) or David Fletcher (slightly below-average OPS). There could be upside to this story.

Maybe we’ll look back on the year and wonder when La Stella hit 20 home runs. (Cozart also suffered a sliding injury late in Monday’s game, something to monitor.)

Four of the next six opponents are right-handed, so we’ll see the streetcar this week. We’re early in the arc of the story; La Stella is owned in a mere five percent of Yahoo leagues. I could see that number expanding significantly by the end of the week.

Angels bullpen could be shifting

Ausmus has other issues with his roster; the back end of the bullpen is unsettled. Cody Allen is off to a poor start (six walks, 6.14 ERA) while Ty Buttrey (9.1 scoreless innings, 3 BB, 13 K) and Hansel Robles (3.18 ERA, 3 BB, 16 K) are throwing well.

Buttrey and Allen were both given Monday off, despite a 14-inning game with the Yankees. Robles worked the top of the ninth in a tie game, generally when your closer would pitch. Allen worked in three of the previous four games and didn’t retire anyone in Sunday’s appearance.

One size will never fit all for any fantasy advice column, especially when it comes to saves. But some of these Anaheim relievers need to be owned. Buttrey trades at 12 percent, while Robles is an overlooked one-percenter.

Brewers time-sharing at first base

The Milwaukee lineup always has a bunch of moving parts, with the intriguing element at first base. Jesus Aguilar was one of the surprise stars of 2018, but he’s off to a dreadful start this spring (.134/.234/.164, no homers). Eric Thames is not a perfect player by any means, but he is slugging .550 over his 40 at-bats. Perhaps Thames can make a run at a full-time opportunity here.

(Thames does have the Fred Zinkie approval, which cannot be understated. Zinkie is basically our Fred McGriff.)

Over the last four days, it’s been a time-share: Thames started against the righties, Aguilar against the lefties. Milwaukee’s next four opponents are right-handed. Again, this is one for the deeper-league players; if you’re in a 10-teamer or less, you can watch from the sidelines. Thames did conk 31 home runs in 2017; there’s plausible upside here. He’s unclaimed in 97 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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