May 23, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second basemanCole Figueroa
(35) is congratulated by teammates after he hit the game winning walk off hit during the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Tampa Bay Rays brought Cole Figueroa up from Triple A Durham to serve as an infield backup while Ben Zobrist is on the DL. Generally, when a player reaches Figueroa’s age of 27 without earning a call-up, he’s not considered a prospect. Yet in the first game of a crucial series with the Red Sox, when a hit would win the game for the Rays, Figueroa came through. His walk-off double delivered the walk-off victory and earned him a Gatorade bath and a pie in the face during his post-game television interview.
Figueroa came to the Rays from the Padres as part of the Jason Bartlett deal in 2010. Figueroa starred for the UF Gators, hitting .340 over two seasons before the San Diego Padres drafted him before his junior year. In the minors, he has been a high batting average and on base percentage hitter, but he has shown little power, which may account for his slow path to the majors. Figueroa’s issue he does not have the defensive chops to pay shortstop nor the power to play anywhere else on the infield. However, he is far from an automatic out. At Durham in 2013, he hit .286 with a .361 on base percentage, three homers, and 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts. Before his call-up he was hitting .299 with a .397 on base percentage and 3 home runs in 33 games. He’s been steady in the field and smart on the base paths, and has been in the minors long enough to make the most of this opportunity. He also has good baseball genes — his father, Bien Figueroa, played professionally for eleven years and then coached for various teams.
After Friday’s game, Cole Figueroa is hitting .250 and has struck out just 1 time in his 8 plate appearances. He is holding his own in every facet of the game, and the Rays will have to think about keeping him around. If he continues playing well, don’t be surprised if the Rays decide to send Logan Forsythe to Durham when Ben Zobrist returns. The Rays still see potential in Forsythe, but he has a minor league option remaining and they just might use it. If Forsythe can work out a few kinks at Triple-A while Figueroa provides the lefty bat off the bench that the Rays have been missing, it could be a good situation for everyone involved.