June 02, 2011
A number of unexpected twists and turns have dominated the fantasy story through the first two months of the season. There's the not-of-the-human-race good (Jose Bautista(notes)), the drive-one-to-drink bad (Hanley Ramirez(notes)) and then the Uggla, the most spew-worthy chapter of all.
Tension over the despondent infielder's struggles is palpable. Owners are fed up, tired of the popular early round pick's string of miserable performances. Their disdain is completely appropriate. Roughly a third of the way to the checkered flag, Uggla has blown several tires. Amassing a .175-7-16-20-1 line over 212 at-bats, he's a shell of his former position-commanding self. In Yahoo! leagues he's the 50th-most valuable player at his position and 856th overall. If his current pace continues, he will finish 34 runs, 11 homers and a whopping 48 RBIs shy of his three-year career average. That's a dramatic one-year decline only Jason Bay(notes) could appreciate.
Fredi Gonzalez, too, is starting to lose patience. On Tuesday, the Braves skipper benched Uggla for the second consecutive day, a move the two-time All-star wasn't exactly fond of. From the Associated Press:
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez made the announcement Tuesday before Atlanta played the San Diego Padres. Uggla and Gonzalez had a conversation before the game.
"Anytime I'm out of the lineup," Uggla said, "it's not my idea."
"We're just going day to day," Gonzalez said. "Just give him a breather, and that's it. I know he doesn't like coming out of ballgames and he doesn't want to come out of ballgames. He wants to be in there and be part of the whole thing, no matter what he's hitting. That's just the competitor in him."
Gonzalez reinserted his troubled star into the lineup Wednesday against the Padres, batting him seventh for the first time this season. Sadly, the motivational ploy didn't work. He finished the contest 0-for-3 leaving four stranded.
Under the microscope, Uggla's secondary profile doesn't offer an uplifting prognosis. The second baseman claims his issues are rooted in foot placement and poor timing, but swing-happy is a better description. Compared to previous seasons, his plate discipline has vanished. Instead of working counts, he's mimicked Aramis Ramirez(notes), impatiently jumping on the first pitch he sees no matter where it does or does not cross the plate. An across the board rise in swing percentage affirms this observation.
Essentially, his personality transformation has led to fewer walks/hits/homers and unbearable fantasy ineptitude. Equally concerning, his isolated power (.142), on par with such modern Ruths as Yadier Molina(notes), Chris Coghlan(notes) and Brett Wallace(notes), is well below his career .219 mark. Unsurprisingly, his HR/FB percentage has also declined noticeably while his GB/FB has spiked. In other words, when he does make contact, it's often of the weak variety.
Yes, his .186 BABIP is rather unkind and he is a very streaky hitter, but considering the variables above and the fact his best month historically is May, the outlook appears rather bleak. At this point, it wouldn't be a shock if Allen Craig(notes) — That's right, the nine-percent owned newly anointed Cardinals 2B — yields more value over the rest of the season.
What should his supporters do?
Even at a discounted price, dealing Uggla isn't an egregious move, assuming you can salvage close to his original market value. Some owner leaning on sketchy options up the middle will bite. Many already have. Over the past week, the slumping slugger attracted Elvis Andrus(notes), Kelly Johnson(notes), Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), Ted Lilly(notes) and Matt Joyce(notes) in one-for-one deals.
Whatever the reason — flawed mechanics, intense post-contract pressure, mental missteps — it's looking increasingly likely 2011 could be a lost season for the maligned Bravo.
And that's the Uggla truth.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 401 at-bats, .239 BA, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 47 R, 1 SB
As an Uggla owner, how long are you willing to wait? Have you benched him until further notice in favor of an upstart like Craig or Justin Turner(notes)? Is the Noise completely delusional for suggesting Craig could outproduce him over the rest of the season? Discuss below.
Other passengers riding southbound (or about to) on the Lames train …
Delmon Young(notes), Min, OF — In an abysmal season for the Twins, the enigmatic Young is at least partially responsible for the ongoing woe along the lakes. Described by one local writer as "disinterested," "lackadaisical" and flat-out "bad," owners in any sized league wouldn't disagree. Currently ranked alongside such statistical hosses as Matt Diaz(notes), Michael Saunders(notes) and everyone's favorite LaRoche, Andy, Young has smacked just one homer in 127 at-bats, knocking in a mere 11. Whirling around in a vortex of suck, the outfielder has struggled largely due to horrific discipline at the dish. His strikeout rate ('10 K%: 14.2, '11: 22.8) is way up compared to last year, the result of more swinging strikes, particularly on fastballs. Still just 25, it would seem sage to buy low on the former No. 1 pick. But due to his lazy approach and general inconsistency, he deserves to be cut in 12-team mixers. Qualifying outfielders Ryan Ludwick(notes) (38-percent owned), Michael Morse(notes) (38-percent), Corey Patterson(notes) (27-percent) and even Laynce Nix(notes) (nine-percent) are more desirable.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 377 at-bats, .274 BA, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 45 R, 4 SB
B.J. Upton(notes), TB, OF — In the last installment of my two-part series on slumping commodities from well-known brother acts: Melvin Emanuel Upton. Over the past 21 days, Justin's elder sibling has fallen on hard times going 7-for-49 (.143 BA) with a strikeout percentage that Adam Dunn(notes) can relate to (36.7). Despite the BA-crippling turn, Upton has still contributed fair fantasy production, chipping in five steals since May 23. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality owning the 26-year-old. Because of his free-swinging ways, epic droughts are part of his game. Owners who laid down big dollars on draft day hopefully knew what they were getting into. On a 20-35 pace, he's essentially a modern version of Mike Cameron(notes), an excellent four-cat producer who is a BA eyesore. In head-to-head formats, where consistency reigns supreme, Upton isn't the greatest option. Showing small improvements in several contact categories, he'll eventually snap out of it. Just understand another month-long downturn is certainly possible.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 374 at-bats, .241 BA, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 51 R, 25 SB
Brandon Morrow(notes), Tor, SP — Coming into the season, expectations were extraordinarily high for the rocket-armed righty. Long, hyperbolic columns about Morrow were penned by fanalysts (Guilty as charged), many calling him a dark-horse Cy Young candidate. After a spectacular second-half, including one of the most dominant pitching performances in big league history (1 HA, 17 K vs. TB), most projected a giant step forward. Instead, the 26-year-old has regressed, tallying a ghastly 5.11 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over eight starts. Physically and mechanically Morrow feels fine, even noting in his latest shelling (vs. Cle) he "had good stuff." Peeling off the layers, his assertion is partially correct. His K/9 has actually improved over last year ('10: 10.95, '11: 11.66) while his velocity has remained the same. Pitch variance, location and bad luck are the true culprits. Backing off his change/curve, he's featured his fastball/slider more often. As a result, hitters, when not whiffing, have made harder contact, evident in Morrow's abnormal 25.6 line-drive rate. Walks (3.89 BB/9) and hanging sliders are also to blame. However, with a .338 BABIP and 3.11 xFIP, now is the perfect time to buy on the bear. Once again he's about to flip a switch. Over the past week, the Jay was swapped for Zach Britton(notes), Brandon League(notes), Corey Hart(notes) and Nick Markakis(notes) in one-for-one deals.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 107.1 IP, 9 W, 3.67 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 133 K
Want to bean Brad in the head? Bring the heat on Twitter @YahooNoise.
Image courtesy of US Presswire