Our own Josh Barnhill wrote up his 2014 Player Projection: Dan Uggla back on January 25th, and of course any projection on Uggla at this point might be skeptical, and for good reason. Need I say more? Okay, if you insist. Let me preface the rest of this article with the clear caveat that I fully realize Spring Training is not a reliable benchmark for what a player will do in an upcoming season. What we’re looking for, and what the coaching staff is looking for, are simple eye-test signs that a player might be moving in the desired direction. For Dan, he’s pretty much got nowhere to go except UP!
That said, I’ll also add that this article is not intended to be an analytical piece on Uggla’s merit or value as a player, and again his spring performance is certainly not enough of a sample size to make any conclusions (Spring Training never really is a benchmark). For such in-depth analysis on his potential value as a player, I’ll refer you to Alan Carpenter’s article from back in June. What I want to do is simply remind fans that Uggla is not nearly as bad as some make him out to be, and to point out that so far this spring, Dan is showing signs of LIFE! Again, you cannot fully rely on Spring Training performances to predict regular season performances, but so far I like the signs I’m seeing out of Dan.
In the five years Dan Uggla spent with the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins), Dan was a pretty good ball player, at least offensively. As you can see from the table below, in Dan’s debut year in the majors, he came in 3rd place for Rookie of the Year, and was an All-Star. He had another All-Star caliber year in 2008, and just a year before becoming an Atlanta Brave, he was 17th in voting for MVP, and won a Silver Slugger Award in 2010.
|FLA (5 yrs)||499||771||170||12||154||465||19||363||760||.263||.349||.488||.837|
You can clearly see why the Atlanta Braves were interested in him (even though a five year deal in retrospect might have been ill-advised). Even though Dan was no Andrelton Simmons defensively, he clearly had the chops offensively, with great power and an aggressive, yet patient (Dan’s always struck out a good bit, but has also walked a good bit as well) approach at the plate. Dan had good extra-base hit numbers in those years, and drove in a pretty good amount of RBIs. Over that 5 year span, a line of .263/.349/.488/.837, with 465 RBIs, and 154 homers was certainly enough to recommend him.
Based on Ugga’s 2013 season, and really that alone, he catches a good deal of grief from casual, yet passionate fans. While his numbers in his three years with Atlanta might not be quite as good as that with the Marlins, he’s maintained good power, a pretty good OBP, and most every other number has remained relatively similar. He seems to have regressed based on an AWFUL 2013 season, but there’s every reason to believe that his vision problems, which our own Alan Carpenter alluded to in this article, may have been the chief culprit to his problem last season. Yes, at 33 years of age, Dan’s problems could be his age as well, but I doubt it. Even at 33, Dan hustles hard, is tough as a nail, and is almost never injured! Dan himself denies that vision problems had anything to do with his dismal 2013, but it makes as much sense as anything else.
|ATL (3 yrs)||234||335||61||4||77||215||7||6||233||495||.213||.323||.404||.727|
What we’ve seen with Dan Uggla so far this spring (and granted it’s just been five games, including yesterday’s), have been encouraging. Through the first four games of spring that Uggla has played in, he’s gone 3 for 7, with 4 RBI’s, scored 2 runs and walked 3 times. Granted, he’s also struck out twice, but that’s in keeping with Dan’s typical approach at the plate. He’s hitting on a line through his first four games of .429/.545/.429/.974. No, he’s not likely at all to sustain that, but these early signs have to be at least initially encouraging to the Braves’ coaching staff, and certainly to fans.
What do you think Dan will do this year? Can he hit around .240? More? Can he still drive in 25 to 30 home runs? We’ll know a touch more as the spring season progresses, but I have always maintained there’s more value in Dan Uggla than many believe, and I still believe he can turn things around. No, at 33 years of age he’s not likely to be the player he was at 26, or even 30 years of age, but few hustle anymore than Dan Uggla. He showed a few attitude problems last season which may well have caused the Braves’ front office to be a little disenchanted with him, but outside of that Dan has a good chance of making the starting 2B role for the Braves, and a good chance of keeping it!