Throughout the off-season, we will highlight players and staff weekly who stopped through Iowa on their way to making history with the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. Tommy La Stella headlines this edition.
Tommy La Stella
Drafted: By the Atlanta Braves in the 8th round of the 2011 draft
MLB Debut: March 28, 2014
Iowa Cubs Career (2015-16): 21G, .299 (23-for-77), 9R, 2DBL, 1TRPL, 2HR, 9RBI, 6BB, 12K
Iowa was a quick stop for utility infielder Tommy La Stella. By the time he made his way from Atlanta to the Cubs' organization after four years of professional baseball, he had already proven his worth on a big league stage. With his versatility in the infield and his left-handed bat, La Stella was able to work his way into Chicago's roster immediatly - but a few stops with the Iowa Cubs still dot his career.
Drafted by the Braves in the eighth round of the 2011 draft out of Coastal Carolina University, La Stella was an Atlanta Organization All-Star in three consecutive years (2011-13) while he worked his way through the system. The 2013 season was a breakout year as the infielder hit .356 (108-for-303) between Advanced-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi.
He advanced to Triple-A Gwinnett to begin 2014 and after hitting .293 and amassing a .384 on-base percentage through 47 games, La Stella got his first call from Atlanta.
The second baseman responded with two hits in his major league debut on May 28 at Boston. With early season struggles from Atlanta's regular starting second basemen, La Stella stuck. Through his first 16 major league games, he hit .411 (23-for-56) and notched a .476 on-base percentage. He cooled off in June, but still managed to compile a .251 average (80-for-319) with 31 RBI in his rookie season.
The Cubs took notice of the 25-year-old and sent Arodys Vizcaino to Atlanta in the off-season to bring La Stella to Chicago. La Stella made his first Opening Day roster with the Cubs in 2015 and even notched a start at second base in the season opener against St. Louis, going 1-for-3 with a stolen base. Luck was not on his side as he appeared in just one more game on April 8 before getting sidelined with a side strain.
After a month on the disabled list, La Stella reported to Double-A Tennessee for a rehab assignment, but hit another skid when he reinjured himself during his stint. La Stella didn't see another live-action game until July 29. La Stella notched a few more rehab games with the Smokies and eventually continued his rehabilitation with Iowa on Aug. 11.
La Stella arrived in Iowa with a bang, mashing a homer in his first at-bat. He got back into his groove with nine total games with the I-Cubs, hitting safely in all but one. On Aug. 24, he returned to Chicago.
Through the remainder of the season, La Stella proved himself to be a valuable pinch hitter and solidified his spot on the Cubs' roster. In 31 games, La Stella hit .279 (17-for-61) and found himself a spot in the postseason after hitting .333 from Sept. 2 through the end of the regular season. In six October games, La Stella went 0-for-10.
In 2016, La Stella, once again, secured a spot on Chicago's Opening Day roster. He was limited in his time in Chicago - first going on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain (June 8-July 6) and also getting assigned to Iowa in mid-August. La Stella tabbed six games with the I-Cubs as a part of a rehab assignment mid-summer. He repeated history with a homer in his first I-Cubs game of the season and went on to go 6-for-21 with three RBI before returning to Chicago.
His second trip to Triple-A was a demotion executed out of necessity. In order to make room on Chicago's roster for the Chris Coghlan, who was coming back from injury, La Stella was optioned to Iowa strictly because he was one of the few with minor league options still available. Prior to reporting to Iowa, La Stella took some time off for personal reasons, but arrived in Des Moines toward the end of August. The infielder notched eight more games, hitting safely in six for a .296 average.
La Stella made his way back to Chicago on Aug. 31, going 9-for-43 through 23 games to end the regular season. He took the 25th spot on the Cubs' NLDS roster, flying out to center field in his only at-bat in Game 1 of the series. He was eventually replaced on the NLCS roster by lefty Rob Zastryzny who, in turn, seceded his spot to Kyle Schwarber in the World Series.
The 28-year-old is likely to hold on to his place in Chicago's lineup with his left-handed bat adding necessary depth to the 25-man roster.