I have little doubt at this point that you the reader hasn’t figured out what we should have all figured at some point this fantasy season: second base was pretty deep. In fact, there were 29 different keystoners whom Zach Sanders listed at $0 and up, with Darwin Barney reeling in that break-even evaluation.
Today I’m tasked with evaluating Dan Uggla, a player with plenty of real-life utility — 3.5 WAR ranks as his fourth-best season out of seven — but one who was probably over-drafted given his season-ending 17th-place ranking. The list of players he finished behind contains some surprises, namely Omar Infante and Danny Espinosa, but again that’s more due in part to the depth at the position than anything.
Dave Cameron had a great piece on Uggla about six or seven weeks ago in which he chronicled Uggla’s demise; rather, his demise with the bat which will likely portend his decline in the rest of his game, considering he was almost a win better in 2012 than last year. Among the harbingers for Uggla were an escalating whiff rate, including four months in 2012 in which he whiffed more frequently than his worst month at any time in 2011.
And it’s likely that those problems are what basically killed his batted-ball profile. For one, Uggla killed owners in batting average leagues with a .220 average. The career-best walk rate was really nice — he led the NL in walks — but even I don’t play in any leagues where walk rate alone does a whole heck of a lot. And we’re talking a really, really big boost in his isolated OBP, as his career mark entering 2012 was .085, and he pulled a .128 this year. Again this is a part of Uggla’s game that is encouraging, but his contract isn’t really crafted for him to turn into an OBP savant considering his declining power and clunky — though better in 2012 — defense.
Finally, Uggla’s power completely tanked. Sure, the 19 home runs were nice, but he slugged .384, resulting in a banjo-esque .732 OPS, a slightly-below league average .325 wOBA, and fewer than 50 extra-base hits when he usually pokes 60 or more.
What essentially sabotaged Uggla’s season was hitting the ball in the air; the 46.4 percent fly ball rate is his highest dating back to his early-Marlins days, and with that conspiring with his awful career-high pop-up rate of 16.8 percent (7-plus percent over his career rate), it’s almost stunning that he managed a higher BABIP this season (.283) than last (.253). So, Uggla hit the ball in the air 60-plus percent of the time, resulting in a line of .160/.158/.531 on such batted-balls. The MLB as a whole hit .222/.217/.613 on bird-chasers, so we’re left to wonder on Uggla a bit here. Likely, the pop-ups were Uggla’s death knell (league average 10.0 percent), as a six percent variation is definitely a probable cause for flattening his flyball success.
The again, maybe he just doesn’t have the power he used to, as we sort of have a chicken-and-egg scenario with crazy flyball rates and a .164 isolated power mark (career-worst by over 30 points, career mark .224 entering 2012). Complicating matters a bit is that Uggla hit line drives at not only a career-best (20.1 percent), but a far and away best (career mark 16.9 percent/17.8 percent previous best). This has to give Uggla owners, present and future, at least some semblance that he could be rejuvenated in 2013 and forward, but for my fantasy dollars I’m looking in another direction. I just don’t think a few more line drives will override the rest of his declining abilities, let alone do I think that line drive spike is really sustainable.
The Braves may be saddled with three more seasons at $13 mill per, but you don’t need to be. Sell on him if you’re in a keeper league and can get a bit(e), and strongly consider only taking him as a flier in redraft leagues next spring. There’s an non-zero chance he could parlay the line drives into something more, but you’ll have to live with a ton of K’s and a low batting average. You can do better.
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