Name: Cole Figueroa
DOB: June 30, 1987
A sixth-round pick in 2008, the Padres were able to consummate a deal to sign him in late July and shipped him off to Eugene to begin his professional career. After leading the Florida Gators in home runs, RBI, multi-hit games, total bases and sacrifice flies during his sophomore season, Figueroa competed in 32 games for the Emeralds.
"Here's another guy where his father played in the Major Leagues, at the Major League level, comes from a baseball family," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said. "Just a very, very good, solid player; instinctually off the charts."
A left-handed hitter, Figueroa hit.289 with 11 extra base hits, including five homers. He scored 23 runs and drove in 16. Figueroa also drew 24 walks compared to 16 strikeouts for a .410 on-base percentage and swiped seven bags in nine attempts.
He hit .344 off right-handed pitching but struggled with a .083 average off southpaw pitchers. He also hit .243 with runners in scoring position but .315 with the bases empty. There were some who believed he wanted to make things happen and was swinging at pitches he normally lays off.
Figueroa began the 2009 season in High-A Lake Elsinore. He lasted 21 games and missed more than a month of playing time due to a torn meniscus that he actually suffered the previous season. He hit just .187 with the Storm and had a .256 on-base percentage. Figueroa did steal five bases and hit .319 with runners in scoring position.
Moved down to Fort Wayne, Figueroa found his stroke and never let up. The left-handed batter hit .319 over 70 games with the Fort Wayne TinCaps – the fifth best mark in the league amongst all hitters with at least 270 plate appearances. He stroked 17 extra base hits, scored 32 runs and drove in 34. He also maintained a 37-to-38 walk-to-strikeout ratio for a .408 on-base percentage – fifth best in the league.
"There was one player that really impressed me this year and that was Cole Figueroa," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "This is a player that may not wow you with his speed, but when you watch what he can do it's amazing. He has great instincts, uses the whole field, and hit many different pitches in many different places."
The Florida native hit .325 with runners in scoring position and .343 off right-handed pitching. His numbers dropped to .254 off left-handers. Figueroa added 10 stolen bases in 17 attempts.
In the playoffs, Figueroa led all hitters with a .406 average, going 13-for-32 with four doubles, five RBI and a team best eight runs scored. He also added two sacrifice flies – productive outs.
"He's always in the middle of everything," Dascenzo said. "He played a great shortstop for us when Cumberland went down and really was, like you say, one of our key hitters down the stretch into the playoffs.
"He got the big two-out, two-run double in game three in the bottom of the eighth, put us up 5-4, but can do anything you want on a baseball field. He's one of those guys where you might have to watch him more than a series to actually find out the value he does have. He's got a nice career ahead of him."
"He understands what's going on," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio hitting coach Tom Tornicasa said. "Figgie's a nice player. I like him. He's clutch too. I'll tell you that. That guy's got a ton, that I can remember, he's got a ton of big hits for us where he drove in runs when our backs were against the wall. Dykster did, too, towards the end there.
"Throughout that whole time Figgie was there, he got a lot of clutch hits. He came through. He had a real nice year. Obviously, I don't think we would have made it without him."
The infielder has a sound all-around game. He doesn't have a lot of moving parts in his foundation. He holds his hands high during initial setup but smoothly brings them back into a relaxed position during his load. His head stays stationary through his swing. Figueroa is equally adept at bringing his hands inside to turn on an inside fastball or extend to cover the outer portion of the plate. He has a level plane to his swing that puts his bat in the hitting zone for an extended period of time.
A contact hitter, Figueroa does not miss many pitches that he offers at. He has outstanding bat control and can go down and get a tough pitch. He will swing outside of the zone and that can be a detriment, as he generally does not square the ball up. Those end up as weakly hits ball on the ground. When he does get good wood on the ball, Figueroa is a gap-to-gap hitter that will run occasionally run into a few home runs.
Figueroa puts all of his weight on his back foot and it is pronounced even in his initial stance. He rocks slightly back to bring the rest of his weight to bear on his back foot while bringing his front foot slightly back for a toe tap, gets separation by striding forward and then explodes towards the ball.
"He stays on his backside real well and uses his lower half real well," Tornicasa said. "His swing is very short and quick and uses the pitcher to create some power, which is what we try to teach and like to see."
A draft eligible sophomore when he was taken by the Padres, Figueroa does all the little things well. He bunts, moves runners over and scores them from third with less than two outs. Blessed with tremendous instincts, he picks up on any abnomalities on the field and expresses his findings to teammates. He is a natural leader that plays the game hard and the right way.
Drafted by Toronto out of high school in 2006, Figueroa is capable at both second base and shortstop. He turns the double play well and rarely makes a bad decision with the ball. He has sure hands and an above-average arm. He usually doesn't have to show off his arm because he puts himself in good position to make plays, setting his feet with balance before executing the cross-diamond throw.
"He is doing exactly what we thought he would do coming out of spring training," roving infield coordinator Gary Jones said. "He got hurt in kind of a freak accident in Lake Elsinore turning a double play with his knee and rehab it, and now he is doing what we anticipated him to be capable off."
"Defensively, he made only five errors in 70 games, which is a great statistic for a young player," Fuson said. "His hands and reactions are unique, and I saw him just make some great throws that I didn't think he would be able to make."
Figueroa is not a fast runner but uses his innate knowledge to steal bases. He reads the pitcher and understands prime running situations, running when he feels an off-speed pitch is coming.
"He is another guy that has a chance to play at the major league level, both with his glove and his bat," Jones said. "He is another guy that doesn't lack for confidence, which is different from being cocky. You combine that with his talent and he has a chance."
Conclusion: Figueroa is someone that will play at the big league level because of his innate ability rather than any plus tool. He has shown he can play shortstop or second base and can play National League baseball. He will need to improve his overall pitch selection and work on getting a bit stronger to take advantage of a bat that doesn't miss many balls. Games and experience are the biggest hurdles.
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