The Atlanta Braves went out and got Dan Uggla in 2011 to add that power right-handed bat to the lineup and to bring some stability back to the revolving door at second base. In his first five seasons with the Florida Marlins, Uggla consistently gave them a batting average at or above the .250 mark, between 90-100 RBI, and around 30 HR. What was there not to like? Signing this guy was a no-brainer for the Braves.
Uggla looked to be the Braves’ second baseman for years to come, and with that thought, he was given a 5-year, $62 million extension. But when Uggla came to the Braves and got off to a shaky start, some were wondering if perhaps Uggla’s stats were a product of his teammates and the park in Florida. But then came the 33-game hit streak, the clutch hits, and the “sluggla-guns”, and all seemed right…for a while.
Some players thrive once a team makes a commitment of that length and size, while others shrink under the burden of the pressure that comes with living up to those lofty numbers.
Uggla seems to have unfortunately fallen into the latter category.
The 2012 season was undoubtedly Uggla’s worst in all his MLB years. His .220 BA, 78 RBI and 19 HR were by far the lowest of his career. Beyond those numbers, Uggla just never looked comfortable or confident–at the plate or in the field. He had the look of being unsure of himself and hesitant to swing, as evidenced by his career high 94 walks and career low .384 slugging percentage.
Even in the field, Uggla looked like he wasn’t quite himself. His 12 fielding errors weren’t his worst in a season by far, but when he did boot the ball, it always seemed to come at the time when the Braves could afford it least. Some errors are easily played around, but many of Uggla’s were costly and demoralizing.
The lack of success at the plate and the tentativeness in the field earned the Braves’ second baseman the nickname “Struggla”, which unfortunately is the same player who has shown up at Spring Training in 2013.
Through Friday’s games, Uggla leads the team with six errors, and is hitting only .210 with only one extra-base hit, three walks and 20 strikeouts in 62 spring at-bats. The man who the Braves signed to become the anchor in the middle infield has suddenly become the weakest link. The worst part is that the Braves are very limited at options to replace Uggla at 2B, or at least options that would produce the kind of numbers expected from Uggla when he was signed to his extension.
The additions of B.J. Upton and his brother Justin Upton to the lineup, and the emergence of Jason Heyward as the true five-tool player he was ordained to be, should have taken a lot of pressure off Uggla to be “the man” and big run producer, but just to relax and be the man that the Braves want as their everyday second baseman.
The Braves don’t really want to replace Uggla, what they want is for “Struggla” to have a seat and for the real Dan Uggla to stand up and take over.