Switch-Hitting, Righthanded Throwing Shortstop
Seasons With Braves: 2000-2005
Stats With Braves: .284/.348/.409, 57 HR, 292 RBI, 554 RS
I was always disappointed in Furcal. I liked the Rookie of the Year Furcal, who got on base at a .394 clip. Whatever happened to that guy? One theory is that he started to swing for the fences more. But that shouldn’t have killed his walk rate, even though he was evidently trying to hit homers. I think it was probably Merv Rettenmund’s fault, but then I blame Rettenmund for most things. Rettenmund, of course, was the genius who decided to (a) tinker with a Rookie of the Year with a .394 OBP’s swing, and (b) after that didn’t work tried to get him to stop switch-hitting. Rettenmund was an ass, and would not be on the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves coaches list.
Anyway, Furcal was actually 20 when he signed with the Braves but lied about his age. He rose through the ranks at the normal rate, moving from second to short along the way, and briefly played at Greenville. He won a spot out of spring training in 2000. The plan was for him to back up Quilvio Veras at second and Walt Weiss at short, but Furcal wound up playing short most every day (Lockhart taking over after Veras went down) and won the Rookie of the Year award. Furcal fell down pretty much across the board in 2001 and then got hurt, leading to the stupid acquisition of Rey-Rey Sanchez, who is not one of the 400 Not Greatest Atlanta Braves, ranking 874th right behind Brian Kowitz. Furcal played just about the same, but more, in 2002.
In 2003 he started to raise his level a little bit, adding some significant power with 15 homers and hitting for a little higher average, though he still didn’t walk enough. Most impressive may have been going 25 for 27 on stolen bases. He went 29 for 35 the next year but on the whole didn’t play quite as well. He got off to a terrible start in 2005 (except on the basepaths, where he stole 46 of 56 and set the Atlanta career record) but was hot in the second half and made himself a ton of money with a free agent contract with the Dodgers. He played well last year but nobody much noticed.
Offensively, Furcal was a slightly below-average hitter for most of his Atlanta career, but gets bonuses for his outstanding stolen base success rate and for his defense. Early in his career he made a lot of errors but they didn’t really cost the team much. Later on, he cut that down, and he always had great range and a terrific arm.