Posted on July 3, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Wherever the Los Angeles Angels go, it seems injuries are sure to follow them. The club announced Wednesday that infielder Tommy La Stella has been diagnosed with a broken tibia and is likely to miss eight to 10 weeks. Such a timeline will likely keep him sideliend until at least early September. It’s a huge blow for both the Angels and La Stella, a longtime utility man who was set to play in his first All-Star Game.
La Stella hurt himself on Tuesday when he fouled a ball off his shin in the 6th inning of the team’s game against the Rangers. He wasn’t wearing any padding or protection on the leg and couldn’t put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the field. A CT scan performed Thursday revealed a fracture of his right tibia.
“The entire team feels awful for Tommy,” said Angels manager Brad Ausmus. “He comes over here, and he’s had this breakout season, named to the All-Star Game, and six days before the break, he gets a two-month injury, basically. … It’s a blow to our team, without question, but the immediate thought is just about him.”
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As mentioned, La Stella had been in the middle of an all-star season. He’s currently hitting .300 with an OPS of .848, helped along by 16 home runs. La Stella has been utterly sensational for a player who’s been mostly a part-time player during his career. In addition to being one of their better offensive players, La Stella’s defensive versatility has also helped the Angels. He’s seamlessly moved between second base and third base, playing wherever the team needs him.
The Angels have called up Matt Thaiss to take La Stella’s spot on the roster. Thaiss was a catcher in college but has moved to first base as a professional. He’s also started 46 games at third base at triple-A this season, as his future with the Angels may be at the hot corner. Thaiss is currently ranked as the no. 6 prospect in the Angels farm system, mostly because of his bat. At triple-A, Thaiss was hitting .274 with an OPS of .867, hitting 14 home runs and 17 doubles.
There’s every chance that Thaiss will get a chance to play at third base every day for the immediate future. That will leave David Fletcher and Luis Rengifo to share duties at second base. Fletcher has played mostly third base this year, but a capable second baseman. He also provides a little more offensive punch, something the Angels will likely need with La Stella on the shelf.
Just how much the Angels miss La Stella will depend on what they get from Thaiss. He certainly has the potential to be a productive big league hitter. But how much he can contribute right away remains to be seen. Based on what La Stella has done this season, it’ll be impossible for the Angels not to feel his absence over the next two months.
With a .500 record, the Angels are still within striking distance of a playoff spot. But with one of their best offensive players sidelined until September, the road to the postseason just get a lot harder.