One of my favorite phrases which usually starts getting thrown around this time of year is "Player X (generally someone of the mid-to-late 30's persuasion) has found the Fountain of Youth." Well, unfortunately for us all, there is no Fountain of Youth -- unless you're talking about Jason Grimsley's version of it, which comes with a needle and a lot of disappointment. The target of this cliche is, more often that not, a veteran player who has had injury issues in the past and is fortunate enough to have the right combination of health and luck. Yes, luck.
So the next time you hear an announcer talk about a player finding the Fountain of Youth, remember that Ponce de Leon (supposedly) searched for it through what is now the state of Florida in order to cure his impotence. Now if that is not irony, then I don't know what is.
Rafael Furcal just refuses to stop hitting. Through Sunday's games, Furcal's triple slash line was at .383/.447/.519 -- a massive improvement over his .231/.298/.348 line from 2011. The question left for us to answer is how much of this is "real" and what can we expect going forward from the reborn 34 year-old shortstop.
Let's start with what we know. Furcal will not finish the season with a .415 BABIP, which is exactly 100 points higher than his career BABIP. There's nothing drastically different in his hit types this season, as his ground ball, fly ball and line drive rates remain pretty close to in line with his career averages. The only number that really pops out at you is his infield hit percentage, which is an astonishing 11.1% (his career average is 6.7%). We have three possible explanations for this: 1) Furcal's gotten faster at his old age, 2) he's developed an innate sense of putting balls where fielders aren't or 3) he's been lucky. I'll let you guess which one I think it is.
But there are developments in Furcal's season which are not the child of luck or happenstance. Right now, Furcal has more walks (15) than strikeouts (14), and he's never done that for a full season in the majors -- though he did do it in 2008, when back surgery cut his season short after only 36 games. But in that explanation lies the biggest issue with Furcal. The odds of him staying healthy are slim at best. So while he certainly could hit .300/.360/.430 the rest of the season while finishing with 100+ runs, 7-8 HR and 25-30 steals, it's more likely that he either misses a large chunk of time or an injury, which he tries to play through, slows down his production. So in conclusion, enjoy the ride and sell if you can get 2008 Furcal value for him.
More after the jump..
Other DPD Notes
* When I wrote about J.J. Hardy prior to the season, I spoke about how his increased fly ball rate and elevated HR/FB rate during the 2011 season led him to be a regression candidate in 2012, even just in the HR department. But it appears as though he's in the process of proving me wrong, as all of those rates from 2011 have remained extremely consistent this year. I still remain skeptical, but I can't ignore what's happening here.
* We all love Dee Gordon's speed as fantasy players, but the rest of his game is in serious need of some refinement. Yes, he's got 12 steals in 32 games, but he also has a .523 OPS, 9 errors and the third worst UZR among MLB shortstops. The reason he was around long enough in drafts to be a popular sleeper was that there was a real chance he would see a demotion if he struggled out of the gate, and that story may be unfolding in front of our eyes.
* Speaking of speed, your major league stolen base leader through Sunday is Emilio Bonifacio with 17. It certainly helps a stolen base total when you get on base at a .344 clip and only have three extra-base hits on the year -- but that's his skill set and he can repeat it. Don't be surprised if it's not Jose Reyes, Michael Bourn or Dee Gordon, but Bonifacio who steals 70 bases this year and almost single-handedly wins you a category.
These are the five best and five worst performers from the past week (Monday to Sunday) in standard 5x5 categories.
1) Dustin Pedroia (.393, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 1 SB in 28 AB)
2) J.J. Hardy (.333, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 6 R, 0 SB in 27 AB)
3) Robinson Cano (.500, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 22 AB)
4) Rafael Furcal (..667, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB in 21 AB)
5) Jemile Weeks (.389, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 4 R, 4 SB in 18 AB)
Who's Not (min 10 AB):
1) Ryan Raburn (.136, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 23 AB)
2) Rickie Weeks (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 15 AB)
3) Clint Barmes (.143, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 14 AB)
4) Will Rhymes (.200, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 R, 1 SB in 20 AB)
5) Dee Gordon (.136, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 22 AB)
Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred.
Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)
Alcides Escobar will hit .280 or higher in 2012 (firmly on)
J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (losing some faith)
Ryan Roberts will finish outside the top 15 2B in 2012 (firmly on)
The Ugly (Evacuated):
None yet. Whew.
What to Watch For
It's been a pretty rough season to be a Weeks brother. Jemile is hitting .205 with 2 HR and 9 steals through his first 31 games, and it's clear he's been the better of the two brothers. Rickie's drawn 23 walks so far this season, but that's about the only positive thing you can say him. He's hitting .158 with 3 HR and 2 SB, and that batting average is heavily weighed down by his career high 28.1% strikeout rate. Now he's missed the last three Brewers games with a swollen hand, which is both unlikely to land him on the DL and even more unlikely to be his only malady of the year. Rickie was a player I was down on in the off-season, making my team of players to avoid, and things are not looking any brighter at this point. If he can get back in the lineup and put together a good couple of weeks, that may be your only opportunity to deal him for reasonable value.
Follow me on Twitter at @tfw_bret