Outfielder B.J. Upton and second baseman Dan Uggla had miserable 2013 campaigns for the Braves, finishing with a .557 and .671 OPS, respectively. Both players finished with batting averages well under the Mendoza Line with 150-plus strikeouts. It was ugly.
As the Braves flipped the calendar over to 2014, there was a sense of optimism that both players could turn it around. Their performance near the halfway mark of spring training, however, might temper that a bit. In 20 at-bats, Upton is hitting .200 with eight strikeouts. Uggla, in 17 at-bats, is hitting .235 with no extra-base hits.
It’s spring and 20 at-bats does not a large sample make, but hitting coach Greg Walker is seeing some things to work on. Via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“He does some different things in the game than he doesn’t do in BP,” Walker said. “He knows what he’s trying to do, and in the games we’re getting about a third of them that are really good, and then about two-thirds of them he’s spinning. He seems to be getting better and better. We’re trying to get his bad-posture spin out of it.
As for Uggla, Walker said, “When he came into camp everything was great. Then he lost it for two or three days.”
The Braves owe Upton $59.8 million through 2017; they owe Uggla $13 million in each of the next two seasons. Even if Upton and Uggla can’t figure it out, the Braves should be just fine without them. After all, they did win 96 games last season.
Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.
Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.
Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”
Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.
Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.