Odds and ends: More Uggla and a different look at past Drafts
Instead of spending another day talking about Dan Uggla’s struggles or the need for a healthy Jason Heyward to begin contributing, we’ll take a look at some of the most notable sports figures to be drafted by the Braves without you ever knowing.
Yeah, you’re right, that’s just taking the easy way out as many of you sit at your office and find it hard to concentrate on work when Uggla’s batting average sits at .172 — the lowest mark among all qualified Major League players. There are two Major Leaguers (Ryan Raburn and Chone Figgins) with a worse on-base percentage (.240) 13 Major Leaguers with a worse slugging percentage (.312).
Two of the three National Leaguers with a lower slugging percentage are Uggla’s former teammate Hanley Ramirez, who was placed on the disabled list Monday, and Omar Infante, who was part of the package the Braves provided in return for Uggla in November.
But hey it’s too early to worry, right? I mean we’re just two months into that five-year, $62 million commitment the Braves made in January.
A couple of weeks ago some members of the Braves organization were still taking that age-old baseball approach of saying, “His numbers will be where they need to be by the end of the season.”
Unless some of Enron’s former accountants are now employed at Elias, it’s not going to happen. There’s certainly still a chance Uggla hit another 23 homers over the final 102 games and end up with a fifth consecutive 30-homer season. But he has just two homers in his past 133 at-bats.
It seems we’ve reached that point where the Braves should do whatever they can to make Uggla believe they do not care what his statistics read at the end of the year. Right now, they can only hope that he proves to be much more like the .263 career hitter he was entering this season.
Yes, it’s important for Uggla to provide the timely power that allowed the Braves claim wins over the Brewers (April 4), Giants (April 24) and Phillies (May 15). But at the same time, the Braves need him to provide at least a hint of consistency in the middle of their lineup.
Uggla is now hitting .111 (6-for-54) with runners in scoring position. Until he starts cashing in on these opportunities more consistently, the Braves are going to struggle like they did most of this past weekend.
The Braves scored 10 runs during this past weekend’s series and just two of them were plated before the eighth inning. Before Diory Hernandez hit his three-run, ninth-inning homer Sunday night, the Braves were flirting with scoring two runs or fewer for the ninth time in a span of 15 games.
They have scored two runs or fewer in 21 of their first 60 games. That equates to 35 percent. They scored two runs or fewer in 45 (27.8 percent) of their 162 games last year.
As mentioned in April, the Braves had some trouble connecting with new hitting coach Larry Parrish. Of course a few hours after this was written in this forum, the Braves began a three-game sweep of the Giants in San Francisco.
But there is absolutely no reason to blame Parrish right now. With Uggla providing nothing more than a couple clutch homers and Jason Heyward proving productive for what amounted to just a week, the Braves simpy have to feel fortunate to be within 3 1/2 games of the top spot in the NL East standings.
LOOKING BACK ON PAST DRAFTS: The Braves’ only pick in tonight’s First-Year Player Draft will be the 28th overall selection. I’m guessing they go for a left-handed pitcher. Over the next couple days, they’ll make a flurry of picks. Some of the players might prove recognizable immediately and others you might not recognize until many years later.
Here is a look at some successful sports personalities who were once drafted by the Braves without many of you ever knowing:
Kevin Towers (1981 — 12th round) The Padres drafted him the following season and later employed him as their general manager from 1995-2009. He is currently serving in that role for the D-backs.
Randy Johnson (1982 — 4th round) After not signing with the Braves out of high school, Johnson enjoyed a successful career at the University of Southern California, where he played with Mark McGwire. The Expos took him in the second round of the 1985 Draft. His 303-win career included a perfect game at Turner Field.
Urban Meyer (13th round of 1982) — Long after hitting .182 in two Rookie Level seasons with the Braves, he won two national championships as the head football coach at the University of Florida.
Ben McDonald (1986 — 27th round) After not signing with the Braves out of high school, McDonald produced a stellar career at Louisiana State University and was taken by the Orioles as the first overall selection in the 1989 Draft.
Mark Brunell (1992 — 44th round) After the Braves took a flyer on him, Brunell served as Brett Favre’s understudy in Green Bay and then became a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback in Jacksonville.
Dallas Braden (2001 — 46th round) — Braden went the college route and was selected by the A’s in the 24th round of the 2004 Draft. Last year, he became the 19th of the 20 pitchers in Major League history to toss a perfect game.