When Alex Rodriguez began ramping up his minor league rehab back in July, it was hard to predict what he would give the Yankees down the stretch. When we had previously seen A-Rod in last year's playoffs, he looked completely helpless at the plate, barely even able to make contact. Now, nine months older and coming off of major hip surgery, a return to prominence was far from guaranteed. On top of the physical question marks he was also dealing with off-the-field complications surrounding his entanglement in the Biogenesis scandal. Despite all of these detractors, A-Rod's remarkable track record in the majors made it easy to dream on his potential offensive contributions.
His arrival was delayed by a couple of weeks, thanks to some combination of a quad strain and the Yankees' desire to avoid the distractions of a publicity circus. Nonetheless, A-Rod ended up appealing his suspension and rejoined the team on August 5. Since then, he has absolutely raked, hitting .289/.383/.513. In just 32 games, he's already produced more batting WAR this year than any Yankee not named Robinson Cano. In addition to partying like its 2009 at the plate, Alex has also looked surprisingly adequate in the field and has even shown some zeal on the basepaths, swiping four bases in six attempts. It appears, at least, that his hip is working just fine.
Upon his return, A-Rod added some much needed pop to a struggling Yankees lineup. In the months of June and July, the team posted a league-worst 71 wRC+ and an Ichiro-ian .097 ISO. By no means did A-Rod single handedly save the offense, but without his contributions, its hard to imagine the Yankees having any sort of shot at making the playoffs right now, especially considering what the alternative would have been at the hot corner -- likely some combination of David Adams, Eduardo Nunez, or Mark Reynolds moving over from first base.
Rodriguez's future beyond 2013 is cloudy, to say the least. He's currently appealing a 211-game suspension, which, if implemented on opening day, would put him out of action until midseason 2015. Considering he would be turning 40 and coming off of a 20-month layoff, it's hard to imagine him having much left in the tank at that point. For now at least, we'll just have to wait and see how his legal situation plays out over the offseason.
In the meantime, A-Rod probably won't continue his torrid hitting over the final two weeks of the season, but at the very least, he's shown that he can still be a productive player when healthy. For what it's worth, the rest-of-season projections for Pecota, ZiPS, and Steamer average out to .261/.346/.412, which would still be better than league average. Whether or not this ends up being his swan song in Major League Baseball, A-Rod has been a pleasant surprise this year and its been nice to see one of the most prolific players of all time flash greatness again; and, hopefully he's able to keep flashing it just a little bit longer.