Dan Uggla Puts the Atlanta Braves in a Tough Spot

James LumaluContributor IIIJanuary 2, 2014

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 11:  Dan Uggla
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Most second baseman do not look like Dan Uggla, a stocky build and bulging biceps that become more apparent when you realize that his jersey is two sizes too small. You certainly can’t blame the man for wanting to show off his guns; I’d totally go American Apparel style if I had those arms.

Uggla’s physique is parallel to the type of player people view him as—a potent offensive threat with 30-plus home run power that is even more valuable because of his ability to play second base.

For most of his career, Uggla has fit that profile.

Since his inception to The Show in 2006, Uggla has hit more home runs than any other second baseman. He has totaled 231 home runs in eight seasons; Robinson Cano is a distant second at 190.

The power profile is aided with his ability to draw walks. For his career, Uggla owns an 11.4 walk percentage.

Uggla’s combination of power and plate discipline has mostly counteracted his below-average ability to make consistent contact. His swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) is at 11.7 for his career, way above the league average.

Unfortunately for Uggla, he has shown major signs of decline since 2012.

Despite retaining his ability to draw walks at an excellent rate—14.3 percent in 2013—Uggla’s SwStr% also averaged at 13.9, the worst of any qualified second baseman in the league. His zone contact percentage was also poor at 75.9 (88 percent is considered the league average).

On the rare occasion that he does make contact, it is not of the quality variety. Uggla’s line-drive rate hit a career low at 13.2 percent.

After seeing Uggla’s ability to make consistent contact go from bad to dreadful, the .179 batting average makes complete sense.

His isolated power (ISO) from 2012-2013 has averaged at .173.5. Considering that Uggla’s ISO from 2007-2011 averaged at .229, it isn’t a great sign for a guy that has had power as one of his main calling cards throughout his career. While an ISO around .173 is still fairly potent, the 55.5-point decline is still disturbing.

On the defensive end, Uggla is poor to say the least. Last season alone, he was worth minus-19 defensive runs saved with a minus-7.1 UZR/150. Defense has never been a strong suit for Uggla, but his bat largely made up for it.

If Uggla isn’t providing value on offense, the point of having him on the roster is nullified. He was barely above replacement level in 2013, worth just 0.5 wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs.

The Atlanta Braves agreed with that sentiment and decided to leave him off the playoff roster in favor of Elliot Johnson. The same Elliot Johnson that owns a career slash line of .218/.273/.319 and 65 weight runs created plus (wrC+) but possesses better defensive capabilities at second.

The decline in Uggla’s performance puts the Braves in a tough spot.

As Dave O’ Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes, teams are not that interested in trading for Uggla.

With evident signs of decline, plus $26 million owed over the next two seasons, the Braves would have to eat a significant portion of that salary in order to move Uggla. And that is if they were able to find a trade partner.

In an ideal world, Uggla rebounds and allows the Braves more opportunities to move him next offseason. This would allow their second baseman of the future, Tommy La Stella, more time to develop before taking over full-time.

Sadly, the ideal is often unattainable, and the Braves may be looking at some sort of carousel between Uggla, Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena before La Stella gets the call.