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2011 Fantasy Baseball Projections: What's Wrong With Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla?

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Projections: What's Wrong With Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla?
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2010 was a banner year for Dan Uggla, as the slugging second baseman posted career-highs in batting average (.287), home runs (33) and RBI (105).

A trade to Atlanta last November sent his fantasy value even higher, as managers salivated at the thought of a lineup that included Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla, and for good reason. Since his major league debut in 2006, Uggla had hit the second most HRs (154) among non-first basemen in the majors.

My preseason second base rankings pegged Uggla as the third-best two-bagger this season, behind only Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia.

Yet, despite all his past success, Uggla has struggled mightily this season, leading many to ask: What’s wrong with Dan Uggla?

There’s always a few guys each year who, for whatever reason, under-perform. It happens to both one-year wonders and reliable veterans. This season, Dustin Pedroia (.247), Shin-Soo Choo (.240) and Ichiro Suzuki (.252) are all stuck in head-scratching slumps. None of these compare, however, to the struggles of Dan Uggla.

For the season, Uggla is batting a worse-than-Mendoza .170 with seven HRs and 16 RBI. Since May 16 (nearly four weeks ago), Uggla has just six hits in 69 at-bats (.087) with no homers and one RBI.

His ineptitude has put his owners in a tough place. For most, Uggla was a fourth or fifth-round pick this year. He’s hit at least 30 HRs in four consecutive seasons; that’s not easy to let go of.

Unfortunately, letting go might be the best choice.

The free-swinger struck out at a rate of 25.3 percent last season, a number that was in line with his career mark. This year—oddly enough—that number has dropped to 21.4 percent. Likewise, his contact rate (73.5 percent in 2010, matching his career total) has risen this season to a still below-average 75.9 percent.

Assuming he’s healthy, we can only assume one thing: he’s changed his swing. Perhaps the Braves encouraged him to do something differently at the plate. Maybe the pressure of his five-year, $62 million deal.

Whatever the reason may be, even Uggla himself can’t explain it, but he vows to break out of his season-long slump.

Well, that’s not good enough.

It’s easy to assume Uggla will turn it around, based on his history as a prolific slugger. But there’s no hard evidence behind that. Sure, his BABIP is a major-league low .184, but his line-drive rate is among the worst as well, checking in at 13.8 percent. He’s not making good contact, and there’s nothing to suggest that’s going to change anytime soon.

As we approach mid-June, Uggla is nearing lost-season territory. You could argue that’s he’s a decent buy-low option in keeper/dynasty leagues with the hope he’ll figure things out over the winter and return to fantasy glory in 2012. In a one-year league, however, it’s going to be tough to get anything more than a bag of peanuts for him.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to find a new second baseman. If you’re reluctant to drop him outright, that’s fine. Keep a bench spot open for him and keep your fingers crossed in hopes of a miraculous turn-around.

Possible replacements include:

  • Justin Turner: 14 runs, two HRs, 24 RBI, four SBs, .295 AVG in 129 at-bats (available in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues)
  • Adam Kennedy: 22 runs, five HRs, 19 RBI, six SBs, .284 AVG in 155 at-bats (87 percent)
  • Allen Craig: 16 runs, four HRs, 23 RBI, four SBs, .336 AVG in 107 at-bats (79 percent)

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