Friday, August 16, 2013

Wait, Gosselin over La Stella?

In 2010, the Braves took University of Virginia 2B Philip Gosselin in the fifth round.  A year later, in the 8th round, the Braves selected Tommy La Stella from Coastal Carolina.  On August 15, 2013, the Braves selected Gosselin over La Stella to replaced Tyler Pastornicky, who has a torn ACL and was only in the majors because of Dan Uggla's LASIK surgery.

And the fans went wild what?  Who?  Why?

It's not that I don't like Gosselin.  He was a Lynchburg Hillcat in 2011 when I went to a lot of games.  His double-play partner was Andrelton Simmons.  He's a decent defender by all accounts and has some sense of flexibility with experience at short, third, and the corner outfield spots.  Not a lot of experience, but some.  And he has been relatively hot recently, slashing .357/.400/.393 in August.

He's not La Stella, though.  After a short trip to Lynchburg, La Stella has slashed .342/.413/.889 in 65 games at Mississippi.  Two days ago, when I wrote about Pastornicky over any of the minor leaguers, I believed it was a valid choice for a few reasons.  Most notably, the Braves already had Pastornicky on the 40-man and he had experience in the majors.  Sure, he wouldn't be a world beater, but he could hold down the job in Uggla's absence without being completely embarrassed.

However, Pastornicky found out something Nate McLouth knows all too well.  When Jason Heyward is in the vicinity, RUN THE OTHER WAY!

The Braves and Pastornicky had hoped the injury wouldn't be serious and a MRI was scheduled.  Unfortunately, Pastornicky was diagnosed with a torn ACL, ending his season and putting his chances of playing any significant time with the Braves in the future at slim.  The Braves chose Gosselin over La Stella.  Let's guess why

1) The Braves have real concerns of La Stella having the ability to play a MLB-quality second base.  I have read several different reports on his defense.  From my experience, defense in the minors is often overstated and the greatest defenders are often just good and the good ones are merely average.  La Stella has most often been referred to as "passable" or "average."  Maybe the Braves consider his defense such a issue that they aren't even willing to promote him yet.  Unlike Gosselin, who has played elsewhere from time-to-time, La Stella has been stuck at second.  One might say that Gosselin has less of a chance to be a starter at second in the majors and he ultimately projects to be a bench piece so why not move him around to see if he shows much potential? It's a worthwhile argument.

2) Fredi Gonzalez is more comfortable with Gosselin.  He's been in the system a year longer and almost certainly got a bigger look in camp.  He also has more chemistry with Simmons after rising through the minors with the shortstop.

3) ...and this is most likely.  The Braves were not anxious to begin the service clock and option years of a guy they look at as a real possibility to replace Uggla.  You might say that such reasons aren't valid to pick one guy over the other, but it seemed likely the reason La Stella was passed over to begin with.  The Braves might see La Stella as the future at second.  If Uggla was to miss the rest of the season, maybe they go with him.  For two weeks, the Braves may have not been willing to begin his time in the bigs.  And remember, the Braves are likely going to scour the trade market, looking for a better fit.  Why call up La Stella only to potentially demote him soon after in light of a trade/waiver claim.

Whatever the reason, the initial feeling is WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?  Once you take a step back, it wouldn't have been the worst decision to go with La Stella.  Would have been a reasonably understandable to go with the better prospect.  However, the Braves went with the guy who was the better option for the next two weeks, not for the rest of the year or foreseeable future.  And if the reasoning was based on service time and option years, that seems ridiculous to some fans.  To people like me, it seems like the smart big picture move.

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