keyboard_arrow_uptop
BP360 is Back! One low price for a: BP subscription, 2022 Annual, 2022 Futures Guide, choice of shirt
Year Comment
2015 Two weeks in June. For some, it's a summer vacation, but for the Marlins, it was the punctuation to a disastrous $3.5 million dollar investment in Furcal. The Fish probably expected Furcal to miss some time with his ever-present injury issues, but a balky left hamstring and right groin kept him off the field for all but nine big-league games. In his brief, shining moment, from June 13th to June 21st, Furcal was awful, as depressing as the last wahwaaahwaaaaaaaa moment when the batteries go dead. A 2013 Tommy John surgery robbed Furcal of his signature skill, that railgun of an arm, and forced a move to second base. And at the dish? He never got his legs under him (injury joke) and posted the kind of numbers that make Jeff Mathis look like Buster Posey. Can Furcal stay upright and on the diamond enough to provide value in 2015? Middle infield is an open question for so many clubs come summer, but recent history suggests clubs would need another vacation after traveling with Furcal.
2014 Furcal's flash of youth after moving to St. Louis in the summer of 2011 was short-lived, as he struggled in his first full season with the club and missed the second entirely after having Tommy John surgery. The injury bug has always bothered Furcal in a 14-year career, but at this point, and after so much time away, it will be hard to tell whether he's hurt or just old when he's scuffling along in June. The Marlins signed him for a small guaranteed salary to play second base, and he'll get a chance to chase 2,000 hits in a clean, well-lit and mostly empty environment.
2013 Furcal’s season ended in late August due to an elbow injury, though there’s hope the aging shortstop will be ready this spring to play out the second year of his contract. But which Furcal will show up? The All-Star who posted a .333/.391/.460 line through the end of May, or the lineup sinkhole who hit .215/.278/.265 thereafter? The steady veteran gloveman who anchored the infield defense all summer, or the oft-injured clubhouse spectator? The Cardinals have 7 million reasons to hope for the former, but with Furcal now one year older, slower, and more fragile, the odds aren’t favorable.
2012 Furcal’s tenure as the Dodgers’ free-agent answer at shortstop was a six-year catalog of soreness, tightness, fractures, and strains. Still battling to overcome the effects of an oblique strain and a broken thumb in July, he was hitting just .197/.272/.248 when St. Louis acquired him for little more than the promise to pay $1.4 million of his remaining salary. Furcal provided an upgrade over incumbant Ryan Theriot at short, much to the delight of the Cardinals pitching staff, and he finally began to hit in September, delivering a .275/.347/.473 line over the season’s final month. But his injury history—if not his 15-for-77 postseason performance—should serve as a red flag to any club with designs on paying for the privilege of penciling Furcal into the lineup every day.
2011 Furcal's roller-coaster ride with the Dodgers continues, complete with sporadic availability and widely variable performances due to back and leg woes. After starting hot, he lost most of May to a hamstring strain, but barely missed a beat and was hitting a searing .316/.380/.492 as late as August 2. Alas, lower back pain in the same area where he had a microdiscectomy two years ago cost him another month, and he hit just .237/.310/.329 after returning in September, yet another factor in the Dodger offense's late-season disappearance. Despite his absences, Furcal's VORP ranked fourth in the majors among shortstops. He'll make $12 million in the final guaranteed year of his deal; with 600 plate appearances, his $12 million option for 2012 will vest, locking in a high salary for a player whose availability offers no guarantees.
2010 When Furcal's completely healthy, as in 2006 or early 2008, he flashes near-MVP form. When he's not, as in 2007 and the first five months of 2009, he's a drag on the offense, particularly in the hands of a manager given to writing his name atop the lineup anyway and hoping for the best. The Dodgers shelled out a three-year, $30 million deal (plus vesting option) to keep him, but the spark he showed in his late-2008 return from a microdiscectomy was rarely in evidence for most of 2009. Though physically healthy, according to trainer Stan Conte he struggled to regain confidence in his back, and hit just .255/.321/.349 with nine stolen-base attempts through August. Finally in baseball shape, he caught fire over the season's last five weeks, batting .330/.400/.491 and carrying that spark into the postseason. While that late showing is cause for optimism, it's balanced by the reality that the Dodgers have gotten just 12 weeks' worth of the star version of their shortstop over the last three years.
2009 Furcal’s torrid start fondly recalled his MVP-caliber 2006 second-half performance, but a strained sacroiliac joint sidelined him in early May. What was believed to be a minor injury ultimately resulted in a microdiscectomy on July 3, a surgery that’s generally season-ending. With the end of his contract on the horizon, Furcal rehabbed vigorously and beat long odds by returning to the lineup in the season’s final week. He sparkled during the Division Series, reminding observers of how the Dodgers were simply a different team with him atop their lineup. Pursued heavily as a free agent, a day after appearing to reach an agreement to return to Atlanta he re-signed with the Dodgers via a three-year, $30 million deal with a $12 million vesting option for the fourth year based on 600 PAs in year three. That's a pay cut from his old pact, and it's a relatively sensible deal, allowing the Dodger to retain a player whose upside remains high.
2008 A late-March ankle sprain cost Furcal the first nine games of the season and was still a factor in September, when he was further hampered by a bulging disc. He hit just .205/.253/.250 in those bookend months while playing in about half of the Dodgers' games. During the other four months of the season, he hit .290/.356/.387-still well short of his recent power production-and didn't homer until June 17. Entering the final year of his contract, Furcal will earn $13 million plus a $4 million balloon payment. If healthy, he can produce enough to be worth the money, but with Chin-Lung Hu apparently ready, the Dodgers find themselves blocking another prospect at great expense.
2007 Furcal was the first of Ned Colletti`s free agent signings, and the best despite a rocky start. Furcal underwent knee surgery in early January, but his slow April (.198/.306/.219) had more to do with a late-spring back strain. Once healthy, he surpassed expectations, hitting a robust .338/.402/.545 after July 1, including a September off the back of Albert Pujols`s baseball card (.369/.424/.622). Overall, his .372 OBP out of the leadoff spot was .0005 from leading all NL leadoff hitters with over 400 plate appearances. The performance was somewhere between his 75th and 90th percentile PECOTA projections, so you can expect he`ll fall off a bit, but it`s possible that he`s found an especially comfortable niche in L.A. (he hit .333/.426/.529 at home); maintaining this level isn`t out of the question given that he won`t turn 30 until late October.
2006 Furcal`s exceptional walk year solidified his status as one of the game`s best shortstops; only Miguel Tejada (27.3), Derek Jeter (23.4) and Julio Lugo (21.7) can claim higher WARP3s over the last three seasons. Not only did Furcal do well at the plate, he also led the majors with 20 Fielding Runs Above Average. Furcal`s best offensive asset is his speed, as his 82 percent success rate in stolen bases and 11 triples will attest. January surgery to repair torn knee cartilage was expected to be minor. While his plate discipline has held steady, his OBP is still less than ideal for a leadoff hitter, and it will be interesting to see whether his new manager, Grady Little, realizes that or simply decides to bat a very fast and wealthy man atop the lineup.
2005 The best shortstop in the National League? In terms of WARP3, Here's how Furcal stacks up against Edgar Renteria over the last three seasons:

Player 2002 2003 2004
Furcal 5.9 6.0 5.9
Renteria 5.5 9.4 3.8

Take away Renteria's highly aberrant 2003, and Furcal's been the better player. Considering that he's also more than two years younger, the trend will likely hold—and Renteria's now a Red Sock anyway. If Nomar Garciaparra proves he can stay healthy and still field the position adequately, perhaps we'll revisit the debate.

2004 An exciting step forward. Furcal refined his approach at the plate-getting back to the more patient style that made him a mudding star in 2000 stayed healthy, and leveraged improved strength into solid power numbers. His arm is every bit as good as hilted, and if he cuts back on the mental miscues, he'll be one of the better defenders in the game. His career path looks something like Alan Trammell's, and Trammell continued to develop power as he aged.
2003 He didn’t reach base like he did as a rookie, but it wasn’t all bad. The shoulder dislocation that ended his 2001 season didn’t affect him, and he showed nice improvement in the field. Now if they could only get him to start taking walks again, he’d be back to being one of the league’s best all-around shortstops.
2002 Furcal’s shoulder injury probably goes back to December of 2000, when he hurt it in winter ball. Whether he’ll still have his great arm when he gets back remains to be seen. Even if he doesn’t, that's not necessarily the end of his career as a shortstop. If Ozzie Smith and Alan Trammell could compensate for their shoulder problems, Furcal is young enough to get the benefit of the doubt. He’ll keep his small power spike while recovering his walks and retaining his steals, becoming the best shortstop in the league behind Rich Aurilia.
2001 Give Bobby Cox a lot of credit for this one. Even the most generous assessments had Rafael Furcal starting the season in the minors; Cox evaluated the player, not the age, and was amply rewarded. By observation, he's a better shortstop than the numbers above indicate, and better there than at second base. We've listed his age as 20 because all sources, including the team, are sticking to that. The midseason Real Sports report that claimed Furcal is three years older hasn't been substantiated elsewhere. That said, we've provided two Wiltons for him. The first is based on a baseball age of 20, the second on an age of 23.
2000 He’s is one of the top two prospects in the game, along with Yankee first baseman Nick Johnson. Furcal is a very good defensive shortstop who might also be the best base-stealer in organized baseball. On top of that, he showed excellent plate discipline for an 18-year-old. With the Braves having little more than a scar at shortstop, look for Furcal to make an appearance in Atlanta when rosters expand, and have the major-league job all to himself by April 2001. He is exactly what the Braves need: a middle infielder who can get on base.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
huztlers
5/20
He was an oft-injured very exciting player. I will always remember him as a, "what could have been" type of talent offensively at least. He probably could have been a career .300 hitter as it fit his skillset, but he opted for 100 career HR instead. He chose the hall of very good over the hall of fame.
therealn0d
5/20
What?