Position: Right-handed Pitcher
It seems as though Figaro has been on the Tigers prospect scene for a long time, and the tine has finally arrived where he is knocking on Detroit's door. Before starting to climb the Tiger ladder, Figaro was released after one season in the Dodgers organization. The Tigers copped him up and he promptly dominated the DSL.
The Tigers brought Figaro stateside for the 206 season and he tore through the Gulf Coast League like it wasn't even there. In 38 1/3 innings of work, Alfredo posted a miniscule 0.70 ERA while allowing only 29 hits and 12 walks, and striking out 31.
The following season, Figaro spent time with both Oneonta and West Michigan. In 11 starts at Oneonta, Figaro posted a 3.38 ERA and notched a 4-2 record. His time in West Michigan wasn't quite as pretty, logging a 4.76 ERA over 22 2/3 innings. It is a small miracle that Figaro was able to keep his ERA that low, considering he gave up 26 hits and six walks, while only fanning six hitters.
The following season saw Figaro really step out in his time with West Michigan, dominating to the tune of a 12-2 record, 2.05 ERA, and seven strikeouts per nine innings. That type of performance prompted a move to High-A Lakeland for the first time in his career. While with Lakeland, Figaro again saw his ERA balloon to 4.91, though this time he was able to continue missing bats with 23 strikeouts in 29-plus innings.
Figaro was promoted again to start the 2009 season, as he finally reached the upper levels of the minor leagues, debuting the season with Double-A Erie. His 3.60 ERA in 80 innings doesn't tell the whole story, as he had stretches of the season where he bordered on unhittable.
In June, Figaro's dominance earned him a trip to Detroit for a spot start. In his Major League debut, Figaro picked up the win as he held Milwaukee to two runs on eight hits while striking out seven over five innings. His next start seven days later was far uglier, giving up seven earned runs on ten hits in six innings to Houston.
As July began, there was some confusion about Figaro's status, as he was originally optioned to Triple-A Toledo, but after a right wrist sprain was discovered, the option was rescinded and he was placed on the Major League 15-day disabled list. Figaro didn't return from the DL until September, when he made two relief appearances down the stretch, totaling 4 2/3 innings of work with two hits and only one run allowed.
As the season drew to a close, Figaro became the center of what is now one of Tiger Manager Jim Leyland's more controversial decisions. With the AL Central Division crown hanging in the balance, Figaro was given the ball in an October 3rd game against the White Sox. Figaro lasted only 1 1/3 innings and 38 pitches, as he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks. The Tigers ultimately lost the game by a final score of 5-1.
Figaro's profile has changed a lot over the last few years. Once stateside, Figaro was one of many hard throwing right-handers in the system, ramping his fastball up to 95-plus with regularity. That has changed somewhat in recent years. Though he can still get it up there, coaches have convinced Figaro to dial things back a bit and sit at 91-92 for most of his starts. There is more in the tank when he needs it for an out, but working at that speed has allowed Figaro to throw more strikes and work ahead in the count.
Figaro has also made strides with his curveball over the last two seasons, routinely showing an above-average curveball that can generate swings and misses. In the past, the pitch has lacked consistency, but he has begun to throw more quality breakers as he has matured and refined his approach.
The third pitch in Alfredo's arsenal is a change-up that is a fringe-average pitch. He lacks the confidence in the pitch to throw it in critical situations, and he will have to learn to trust it in order to reach his ceiling.
Command of all three pitches has started to come around over the last two years, and Figaro can now throw strikes with relative ease. He is better at controlling his stuff out of the windup than he is in the stretch, which may be problematic long term as most scouts view him as a potential swingman.
Figaro still has a chance to be a quality back end starter if he can learn to trust his change-up. Without that last step, Figaro is probably destined for a bullpen role and maybe a few spot starts here and there.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG AA
The sprained wrist that Figaro suffered last year was a bit of a freak injury. Though he returned to the mound at the end of September, there is still some speculation that the wrist may not be back to 100%. He was roughed up in the Dominican Winter League, and some rumblings out of the Dominican indicated his wrist may have been bothering him. He should be watched closely this spring to see if there are any lingering effects.
Other than some final polishing and increased consistency, there is little left for Figaro to prove in the minor leagues. He enters spring training with a slim chance to make the Detroit roster, either as the fifth starter or in the bullpen. The more likely result on Opening Day, is that Figaro is in the Toledo rotation, and just a quick call away from Detroit should the need arise.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.