Luis D. Figueroa
From BR Bullpen
Luis Daniel Figueroa
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 201 lb.
Luis D. Figueroa was born after major leaguer Luis Figueroa but began his baseball career earlier. The two are sometimes mistaken for one another given their common nationality, first and last names and since both play the infield. They both won a batting title in the Puerto Rican League. Luis Daniel Figueroa, though, is notable for being legally deaf. He has played a half-decade in AAA through 2006.
At age six, Figueroa had a fever and infection that cost him 75-90 percent of his hearing (sources vary). He got hearing aides for both ears and his hearing improved to 50% that of a typical person. Figueroa compensated for his lack of hearing by learning to read lips, using captions on the television as a key learning tool. Luis became fluent in reading lips in both Spanish and English, a rare feat, and never learned sign language. Additionally, as infielders and coaches often rely on hand signals, Figueroa's lack of hearing was not as much a deficit as it would have been in some other sports.
Luis was signed by the Seattle Mariners as an undrafted free agent in 1994. In 1995, he made his professional debut with the AZL Mariners and hit .292/~.377/.363 in a part-time role at third base. Figueroa made three stops in 1996 - the Everett AquaSox (6 for 13, a double, triple, two walks, 4 runs, 3 RBI in 4 games), the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (.290/~.364/.399 in 37 games) and the Lancaster Jethawks (12 for 31, 4 doubles, a triple, 2 walks, 6 runs and 6 RBi in 9 games).
Figueroa finally got a chance to play regularly in 1997, with Wisconsin. The 20-year-old third baseman hit .286/~.332/.369. His season ended early, though, when he collided with SS Ramon Vazquez while going for a pop-up, leading to a broken wrist. He reported that the incident made him more cautious in chasing after the ball and made his teammates learn to signal more clearly when they were going for it.
In 1998, Figueroa returned to the Timber Rattlers for a third year and hit .291/~.376/.359. He stole 7 bases in 8 tries and only struck out 18 times in 306 AB. Promoted to Lancaster in 1999, he had a great year, hitting .356/~.427/.507, but was limited to 39 games by injury. He spent a rehab stint with the AZL Angels, going 5 for 10 with a double.
At age 23, Figueroa played for the New Haven Ravens and hit .272/.327/.340. He led Eastern League third basemen in both fielding percentage (.954) and double plays (27). In 2001, Luis made it to AAA. He split the year between the San Bernardino Stampede (.323/.410/.419 in 32 games), the San Antonio Missions (.141/.167/.172 in 18 games) and the Tacoma Rainiers (.342/.363/.395 in 24 contests).
In 2001-2002, he hit .315/?/.399 for the Gigantes de Carolina. In his 8th uear in the Seattle system, Figueroa provided solid contact hitting in limited time for San Bernardino (.341/.392/.407 in 33 games) and San Antonio (.339/.417/.428 in 48 games). In the 2002-2003 winter, he batted .304/?/.363 for Carolina. At age 26, Luis got a full-time role at AAA for the first time. He hit .281/.350/.345 in 123 games as Tacoma's main third baseman.
The 2003-2004 Puerto Rican League season was an excellent one for the deaf Carolina star, who hit .422/?/.570 and led the league in average by 54 points over Lou Lucca. He was named as the third baseman on the Baseball America winter league All-Star team. Back in the US, Luis signed with a new organization, the Nashville Sounds, who had been home to the other Luis Figueroa for two years (2000-2001). With the Pittsburgh Pirates' AAA affiliate, Figueroa hit .297/.355/.402.
In the 2004-2005 Puerto Rican League, Luis batted .278/?/.452 for Carolina, showing more power than usual. He moved to the Mexican League in the spring of 2005 and played for the Tijuana Colts, who had the LMB's top record. He hit .328/.403/.465 for the club, with nine home runs, the most yet in his career and usually hit 6th for the team.
In winter ball in 2005-2006, Figueroa hit .312/?/.433 for Carolina. He then batted .364/~.500/.591 in the 2006 Caribbean Series to finish 7th in the Series in average; he drove in five runs in the six games, but also made three errors at third base.
In the 2006 regular season, Luis batted .275/.424/.314 in 15 games, then went to the Campeche Pirates, where he hit .384/.452/.584 in 37 games for a season batting line of .352/.443/.506. Through December 8, he had hit .288/.388/.333 in 20 games for Carolina. He was 0 for 3 with a strikeout in the 2007 Caribbean Series, when he was teammates with the other Luis Figueroa.
In 2007, Figueroa batted .418/.498/.610 in 37 games for two teams in the Mexican League.
Sources: 1996-2007 Baseball Almanacs, Workers for Jesus/Deaf Friends International profile, Seattle Times story about Figueroa and a fellow deaf Mariners prospect, MLB.com, Minor League Baseball.com, 2006 Baseball Guide