While Dan Uggla’s continued struggles at the plate have become a thorn in the side of many Atlanta Braves fans, the team does not appear likely to release their second baseman in the near future. The Braves simply do not appear interested in swallowing the nearly $24 Million that remains on his contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.
Uggla’s poor production at the plate has been a concern since he first arrived in Atlanta prior to the 2011 season. Since that time he’s managed to hit just .211/.318/.396, while seeing those numbers slip further with each passing season. This year he’s managed a meager .184/.241/.272 line through his first 112 plate appearances, while seeing his power nearly disappear. He’s also striking out 27.6% of his trips to the plate, well above the National League average.
Along with the extreme lack of production at the plate, Uggla has drawn the ire of most Braves fans who hold high expectations for their team’s performance. The Braves may be sitting near the top of the NL East – thanks largely to a pitching staff that’s performing above expectations – but the flaws that Uggla brings to the table have started to become more widely noticed (or at least singled out). This has resulted in an abundance of questions about how the organization should go about addressing the problem.
Atlanta does have alternative options for second base. Both Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky appear to be getting more time at second base and will continue to do so in the coming weeks, Bowman notes. Neither player is necessarily going to tear the cover off the ball at the plate, but they would appear to bring a quicker first step defensively and a little more energy to the table than Uggla has been providing in recent weeks. Pastornicky does also bring a little speed to the team’s roster, despite his lack of stolen bases.
All in all, they are likely just placeholders until the team is ready to promote top prospect Tommy La Stella to the Major Leagues. La Stella burst onto the radar with a solid season last year that he followed up with an outstanding campaign in the Arizona Fall League. He’s continued that production this year in his first taste of Triple-A, batting .300/.372/.327 through his first 129 PA. While not a significant power threat (his career best of nine home runs came in his first professional season at Class-A Rome), La Stella’s ability to get on base and hit for contact make him a clearly intriguing option for Atlanta’s free swinging lineup.
Bowman adds that there is some sentiment on the team’s active roster that would prefer to see Pastornicky get an opportunity at regular playing time before the team rushes La Stella into the mix, which appears to be a reasonable request. The two profile as similar players. Pastornicky has the advantage of defensive versatility while La Stella will likely be the better offensive threat long term. Unless the team is able to find another means to move Dan Uggla off their active roster then it’s unlikely the pair will both be able to find playing time with regularity while at the same level.