2011 Dodgers Player Profile: Rafael Furcal, Man On The Verge Of A Physical Breakdown?

When the Los Angeles Dodgers take the field for the first time in 2011, Rafael Furcal will run out to the shortstop position to begin his sixth season in Dodger blue.

If he is healthy.

Ultimately, it seems that it is health that is always the question mark with Furcal. His Dodger career is pockmarked with injury issues:

  • 2006 - Injury-free, Furcal sizzles in his Dodger Blue debut (.814 OPS) and even garners some MVP votes, finishing 14th.
  • 2007 - Left ankle, meet Jason Repko. After the spring training injury, Furcal starts the season on the DL, but then almost never rests while playing all year with the limited leg: .687 OPS and a -15.2 UZR/150.
  • 2008 - His red-hot start is hijacked by a back injury and surgery and he misses games 33 to 157.
  • 2009 - Furcal never seemed to let his game fully loose, and admitted as much to the press last spring:

"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."

  • 2010 - Furcal puts up excellent numbers (.826 OPS, 6.8 UZR/150) but in only 97 games, while twice making month-long disabled list visits, once for a hamstring problem and the other for a lower back strain.

Furcal is also the best hitting shortstop the Los Angeles Dodgers have ever had. Enjoy the production while we have it.

All-Time LA Dodgers Shortstops: Leaders in OPS+ - minimum 1000 PAs

Rk            Player OPS+   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS   PA From   To   Age    G   AB   R    H  2B 3B HR RBI
1      Rafael Furcal  102 .288 .356 .415 .770 2650 2006 2010 28-32  580 2374 392  684 118 27 43 216
2      Jose Offerman   87 .256 .344 .325 .669 2297 1990 1995 21-26  579 1967 257  503  65 24  8 160
3        Maury Wills   87 .281 .331 .332 .663 6744 1959 1972 26-39 1593 6156 876 1732 150 56 17 374
4         Greg Gagne   83 .253 .315 .359 .673 1040 1996 1997 34-35  272  942  97  238  33  5 19 112
5       Bill Russell   82 .263 .310 .338 .648 8020 1969 1986 20-37 2181 7318 796 1926 293 57 46 627
6      Dave Anderson   77 .235 .312 .311 .622 1943 1983 1992 22-31  713 1700 206  399  63  9 16 124
7     Mariano Duncan   71 .234 .284 .325 .609 1439 1985 1989 22-26  376 1314 161  307  44  8 20  95
8      Cesar Izturis   68 .260 .296 .336 .632 2396 2002 2006 22-26  590 2230 238  579 103 20  9 176
9    Alfredo Griffin   57 .227 .273 .274 .548 1788 1988 1991 30-33  481 1633 153  370  52 10  2 118


Personally, I truly enjoy watching Furcal play baseball and not just because he was on the All-Short-Stuff Team. Watching him running full bore to take an extra base, scurrying out to unexpected depths in short left field to snare a pop up, drawing in a third baseman only to slap a hard bunt past him, or gunning a ball with his cannon arm to nip a speedy baserunner at first base is simply a joyous baseball experience.

Trivia

Only 15 unassisted triple plays have been recorded in the modern era of major league baseball and Furcal is the proud owner of one of them, having turned the trick for the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning on August 10, 2003 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Furcal has only 11 career minor-league plate appearances above the A+ level, all in AA ball, excluding rehab assignments. Despite that lack of experience, he was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2000 for the Braves.

Contract Status

Furcal will earn $12 million in the last year of his three-year contract; however, The Dodgers hold an equally well-paying option for 2012, which vests for Furcal with 600 PA in 2011. Furcal could also gain an opt-out for 2011 with 625 PA. Full contract deals can be found here. Will a 34-year old Furcal be worth $12M in 2012?

Stats

Year Age PA BB% Runs RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2007 29 642 8.6% 87 47 .270 .333 .355 .311 85
2008 30 164 12.2% 34 16 .357 .439 .573 .440 172
2009 31 680 9.0% 92 47 .269 .335 .375 .316 91
2010 32 428 9.3% 66 43 .300 .366 .460 .366 129
2011 Projections - Age 33 Season
Bill James 564 9.6% 83 46 .278 .349 .404 .337 111
Marcel 482 9.2% 67 42 .277 .344 .416 .336 111
Baseball HQ 544
10.1% 83
48
.293 .364 .432
ZiPS 443 9.3% 66 39 .276 .341 .402
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

2011 Outlook

With both Juan Uribe and Jamey Carroll on the roster, I expect manager Don Mattingly to fulfill his promise of giving Furcal regular rest throughout the season in an effort to prevent wear and tear on the shortstop. What is hard to predict is the amount of time he'll spend on the disabled list. I will guess that Furcal plays 129 games and hits .283 / .355 / .436 in 555 PAs, which is not quite as optimistic as Baseball HQ, but more than the others.

What are the TBLA community projections for Rafael Furcal in 2011?  Give us your prediction for BA, OBP, and SLG in the comments, and feel free to add games played or any other predictions you have as well.

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