Much has been made about Dan Uggla’s defense, since the Braves traded for the slugger on Tuesday and announced he’d stay at second base and Martin Prado would move to left field.
Uggla’s 34 errors in the past two seasons are the most among qualifying major league second basemen, and his three-error debacle in the late innings of the 2008 All-Star Game at old Yankee Stadium hasn’t been forgotten by some people.
I asked Braves general manager Frank Wren about Uggla’s defense during the GM meetings earlier this week.
“I think he got a real bad rap because of the All-Star game a couple of years ago,” Wren said. “But I know watching him play this year, I didn’t see a below-average defensive second baseman,” Wren said.
“I mean, I saw a solid, average guy. Fredi [Gonzalez, new Braves manager and Uggla's manager for 3-1/2 seasons in Florida] and Carlos [Tosca, new Braves bench coach who previously served in that capacity in Florida] both talk about how they don’t know anybody who turns a double play better than he does.
“Those are all key factors for that position. He’s a solid defender who can really turn the double play, which is what you’re looking for.”
When I mentioned that one of our blog readers complained that the Braves got worse at two positions defensively with this move, Wren said:
“I don’t think there’s a lot of difference at second base, if there’s any [between overall defense with Prado and with Uggla]. And I think Martin will improve our defense and improve our speed in left field.”
One other thing about Prado to LF and Uggla to 2B. Some have asked why not move Uggla to LF and keep Prado at 2B.
Beyond the fact that Prado has played quite a bit of left field in winter ball and is versatile enough to play it well (and says he doesn’t have a problem moving), I thought of another factor in why the move makes sense: If Chipper can’t play right away, or needs time off now and then, moving Prado back and forth from LF to 3B is better than moving Uggla back and forth.
Uggla didn’t really like playing 3B in the minors too much, from what I understand (I’ll ask him later), and the guy’s only about 5-foot-10.
How many 5-10 third basemen do you know of in the majors? Not many in recent memory.
[For the record, that's also what I had said about LF to the commenter here when he first mentioned the notion that the Braves had gotten worse at two positions. I think they'll be better with Prado in LF than the past couple of seasons of Braves LFs. But I do think Prado's clearly a better defensive 2B than Uggla.]