Last call on Tommy La Stella, first call on Brewers prospect Keston Hiura

I thought we had the Tommy La Stella talk and were done with it. Splashy, exciting story out of nowhere, but with supporting stats. I write, you add, we walk down the fairway together. Everybody wins.

Wait, La Stella is still lagging at 24-percent ownership? Looks like we need one last alarm before the book is closed.

Maybe the back spasms earlier this month threw people off the scent. La Stella missed most of four games and out of sight, out of mind. But he’s been on a binge since returning, a 7-for-17 clip with three homers. He’s slashing .272/.364/.583 for the year, 10 home runs. He qualifies at second base and third base.

The power is the new thing to La Stella’s game. He’s always had the tint of a professional hitter, with a reasonable .265 career average and a more impressive .347 OBP. The loaded Cubs lineup blocked him most of the time — Daniel Vogelbach faced the same problem — which is why La Stella never saw more than 169 at-bats in Chicago. He was a speciality player, a versatile bench option.

The Angels don’t have that luxury, of course. La Stella will play against most everyone. Sure, he has the expected lag against left-handed opponents, but that’s not a kill shot in the shape of today’s game. Use him against righties, where he slashes .306/.372/.647. Nine of his homers come in the platoon advantage.

Los Angeles Angels' Tommy La Stella celebrates after scoring on a single from David Fletcher during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Tommy La Stella just wants you to be happy. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The advanced metrics are in La Stella’s corner. He’s hitting the ball harder than ever before, and his launch angle is almost double what it was last year. He’s already collected eight barrels this season, after just 12 the previous three years.

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And if you want an old-school metric, consider this — La Stella has 12 walks against eight strikeouts. If I teach you just one thing in this column, it’s this — when a hitter has more walks than strikeouts, he is usually worth an immediate pickup. Walk and strikeout rate also stabilize quickly in a fresh season; we don’t need to sit on our hands. And Wait for Proof is a dead strategy, anyway.

Some of you are sleeping on La Stella. You’ve been notified. Get to the window before the bell goes off.

Milwaukee recalls top prospect

If you don’t want the old infielder, maybe we can interest you in the new infielder. Milwaukee’s recalling Keston Hiura, a buzzy hitting prospect.

Hiura, 22, has pedigree to the moon. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Baseball Prospectus’s No. 6 prospect before this year (Baseball America and had him in their respective Top 20s). Hiura’s bat has nothing left to learn at Triple-A, where he slashed .333/.408/.698 with 11 homers and four steals through 37 games.

Hiura’s buzz is all about his offense — he’s not a great defensive second baseman. The Brewers will find a way around that. Mike Moustakas and Hernan Perez have been on second base this year; that loosely qualifies as an experiment. Travis Shaw, ostensibly the third baseman, hasn’t hit at all (.548 OPS). Maybe it’s time for Moose to go back to third and Hiura to take over at second.

The baby Brewer is ready to add in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Lucas Giolito figuring it out

Speaking of pedigrees, I’m surprised the Lucas Giolito bandwagon is refilling so slowly. Giolito was a consensus Top 5 prospect just three years ago, and he’s putting things together in his age-24 season.

Giolito survived his May 2 turn against Boston, then shut down the Indians and Blue Jays in the next two starts. The three games total this way: 19.1 IP, 14 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 23 K. That’s an ERA under two, a WHIP just over one. Dominant ratios.

His seasonal ERA still stands at 3.55, though FIP suggests a 3.05 return. He’s been an eyelash unlucky. His strikeout rate has jumped 13.4 percent from last year, and he’s cut the walks slightly. Overall, Giolito is throwing more strikes (and more first-pitch strikes), and getting the most swings and misses of his career. His fastball velocity has also spiked.

This is what a breakout looks like. Giolito is long gone in the deep leagues and some medium mixers, but he’s unclaimed in 62 percent of leagues. The AL Central remains the soft-landing pillow of 2019. Settle in, settlers.

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