Do the Marlins Like Dan Uggla?

In his third season in the majors last year, Dan Uggla set career marks in HR (32) and RBIs (92) and re-gained 15 points in average that he lost from the year before. It would appear that Uggla is on a fantasy upswing but there are just enough warning signs to make owners leery about investing too much in him.

Uggla has an ADP of 59 according to the latest numbers at Mock Draft Central, making him a late fifth-round pick and putting him in the second tier of second baseman along with Alexei Ramirez and possibly Robinson Cano.

But Uggla hit under .200 versus LHP last year and continued a career pattern of fading in the second half of the season. In 2008, Uggla had a .739 OPS after the All-Star break, compared to a .978 mark before it. Major League pitchers fed Uggla a steady diet of off-speed pitches. He saw a fastball on just 50.2 percent of his at-bats last year, the second-lowest mark in the majors.

Ordinarily, these numbers would not mean too much. But in the off-season, the Marlins acquired Emilio Bonifacio, a speedy second baseman with an excellent defensive reputation. Uggla’s reputation in the field is not good (although defensive metrics show a big improvement in 2008) and his performance in the All-Star game certainly didn’t help any.

There have been all kinds of rumors about what Florida plans to do with its infield, with speculation having one or the other between Uggla and Bonifacio moving to the hot corner.

Either way, it seems unlikely that the Marlins acquired Bonifacio to be a bench player. How will Uggla react if he has to switch positions? If Bonifacio opens the season as a super-sub, will the Marlins keep Uggla on a short leash if he gets off to a slow start? How will Uggla’s arbitration case with the team affect his status?

It seems silly to have to worry about a player who has averaged 30 HR a season for his three years in the majors. But the Marlins have not been embracing Uggla here in the off-season. Besides the trade for Bonifacio, they refused to even consider a long-term contract for Uggla, despite his desire to team up with Hanley Ramirez as the team’s double play combo for years to come.

These concerns can be dismissed as idle speculation. But when it comes to a high draft pick, it seems unnecessarily risky to spend a fifth-round pick on a guy about whom his current team seems to be lukewarm.

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