In the winter months before the 2011 season began, the Atlanta Braves made a trade with the Florida Marlins giving up Omar Infante and relief pitcher Michael Dunn for power hitter Dan Uggla. He has had a strange road to stardom, he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 11th round of the 2001 MLB draft and had spent five seasons trying to make his way through the organization. After never getting above the AA level the Diamondback left him off the roster in 2005 and was picked up by the Marlins in the Rule 5 draft. Then, the Marlins decided to give the 5’11” second baseman a shot.
Before coming to Atlanta, during the five years spent in Florida he hit 154 home runs while containing a batting average of .263. In Florida, he hit over 30 home runs in every season except his rookie year (27). Then throughout his first season with the Braves in 2011, he hit 36 home runs making it five consecutive years of hitting over 30 a year. But with the batting average slipping each year with the Braves so far, the skeptics have been all over him.
Now going into his 33-year-old season, Uggla is probably in a make or break season to stay in Atlanta. Every offseason prior to this one, Uggla has worked on getting stronger and building muscles. It seems as though he has taking strides during this offseason to become a more all-around ball player by eating right and working out with his teammates during the break. After his worst season of his career, he lost 20 pounds since last spring training.
Even though at the other end of his prime year ages and coming off a horrific year, I believe Uggla will have a bounce back season for the Braves. I project him to hit around 25-30 home runs and getting his batting average up closer to his career mark (.253). I’m still hoping that he can realize pitchers know he’s going for the fences and that he should try to fix his swing to go to right field. If he becomes a more complete hitter by hurting the defense going to all fields, Uggla will again be a threat to pitchers.