When the Figueroa brothers were being courted by colleges in 2001; it was actually Daniel who got most of the attention, not Paco. But while injuries have derailed the athletic Daniel Figueroa, Paco has made a steady climb towards a major league career. The Orioles have been extremely pleased with their investment after spending a 9th round pick and a well below-average bonus of $25 thousand.
DOB: 02/09/83 Height: 5-11 Weight: 182 B/T: R/R
Paco Figueroa's age 23 season:
Figueroa is not an imposing physical presence and he doesn't try to muscle up on the ball to compensate. Instead, as he told ITW earlier this year, "My job is to drive the ball in the gaps and get on base for my teammates." Indeed, Figueroa spent the majority of the season in the leadoff slot and did well enough to earn a spot in the Carolina League All-Star game, though he couldn't play because of a fractured finger. Because of some missed time due to the injury, Figueroa was one of the lucky few to represent the Orioles in the Hawaiian Winter League, where he hit a solid .265/.387/.357 in 98 at bats. < p>
Figueroa has a compact swing that should allow him to hit for high averages as he moves up through the organization. He does a good job of recognizing pitches, but his walk rate actually suffers because he is so adept at making contact whenever he swings. He has no platoon issues to speak of and has above-average speed, though he is not a burner. His approach on the basepaths could use some work, but Paco recognizes this and should put forth the effort necessary to become a net positive as a baserunner.
Figueroa knows that he has to excel in as many areas as possible, so he works hard on his defense. His range and instincts are solid at second base, and he did an admirable job dealing with an unforgiving infield at Harry Grove Stadium. In his professional debut, he was also given some exposure to the outfield, though he stuck strictly to second base in 2006.
Paco Figueroa has been a pleasant surprise thus far, but his upside is limited. He projects as an average defender at second base, which is still very valuable, and he will never have more than gap power. What Figueroa lacks in projection though, he more than makes up for in polish. He has the upside to be a league average second baseman and, given his range of contributions, should at least be a valuable bench player in the long run. With a good showing in double-A Bowie, he could get a cup of coffee this September, though it will probably be more like mid-2008 before he is making any meaningful contributions to the Orioles.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com