2010 Player Profile: Rafael Furcal - Back To Normal?

Rafael Furcal will be starting his fifth season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010.  He's hoping that it is his second season in L.A. that is not seriously affected by injury.

  • 2006 - 159 games played, career year at the plate with an .814 OPS.
  • 2007 - Jason Repko wrecks Furcal's ankle in spring training.   The Dodgers perceiving that that they lack alternatives at SS don't rest Furcal after he starts the season on the DL and he plays on a bad wheel all year: .687 OPS and a -15.2 UZR/150.
  • 2008 - Red-hot start ruined by back injury and surgery, misses games 33 to 157.
  • 2009 - Still recovering from the back surgery, Furcal never seemed to let his game fully loose. Talking about last season, he told Tom Singer of mlb.com,
"I felt afraid of hurting the back again. Everything I did, that was in the back of my mind." ... "As a whole, it was bad. I never found myself until the end of the season."

Despite being plagued by injuries and related issues, the switch-hitting Furcal has been the second-best offensive Dodger shortstop in the "Integration Era" (1947 to the present), measured by OPS+:

Rk          Player OPS+   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS   PA From   To   Age
1    Pee Wee Reese  100 .273 .371 .390 .760 7136 1947 1958 28-39
2    Rafael Furcal   98 .286 .354 .406 .760 2222 2006 2009 28-31
3    Jose Offerman   87 .256 .344 .325 .669 2297 1990 1995 21-26
4      Maury Wills   87 .281 .331 .332 .663 6744 1959 1972 26-39
5       Greg Gagne   83 .253 .315 .359 .673 1040 1996 1997 34-35
6     Bill Russell   82 .263 .310 .338 .648 8020 1969 1986 20-37

Defensively, fangraphs.com has Furcal's career UZR/150 at -3.1 (for the years for which data is available, 2002-present) , but with some wild swings.  2008 is, of course, a ridiculously small sample size, but even a full season is considered a smallish sample size for UZR.

Fun Fact

Excluding rehab assignments, Furcal has only 11 career minor-league plate appearances above the A+ level, all in AA ball.

Not So Fun Fact

Furcal's career high walk rate of 13.5% was in his 2000 NL Rookie of the Year season with Atlanta.

Contract Status

Furcal is signed through 2011, with an $8.5 million salary for 2010, and with an option for 2012 that he could vest or that he could opt out of based on PAs.  Details here.  (He would be a 34-year old SS in 2012, so if he vests that option, which would be worth $12M - $14.3M, at first blush it would seem unlikely he would opt out.)

2010 Outlook

Year Age PA BB% Runs RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA
2006 28 736 9.9% 113 63 .300 .369 .445 .357
2007 29 642 8.6% 87 47 .270 .333 .355 .311
2008 30 164 12.2% 34 16 .357 .439 .573 .440
2009 31 680 9.0% 92 47 .269 .335 .375 .316
2010 Projections - Age 32 Season
Bill James 643 9.3% 94 50 .278 .346 .391 .329
CHONE 625 9.3% 89 47 .274 .344 .389 .328
Marcel 556 9.2% 76 44 .273 .341 .391 .325
Baseball HQ 612 9.8% 87 49 .287 .357 .404
ZiPS 513 9.2% 76 47 .275 .341 .384
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

 

Furcal took the winter off this past off-season, rather than play Dominican winter ball, as has been his custom.  This was done to allow his back to rest and continue to heal, but perhaps it will also give the Dodgers a fresher Furcal throughout the 2010 season.  I am going to be optimistic and guess that he will get to enjoy a rare season in Los Angeles that is not dogged with injuries and have a quality year at the plate:

.282 / .357 / .399 with 645 PAs.

What are your predictions for Rafael Furcal (BA/OBP/SLG and Plate Appearances)?

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