Juan Figueroa (minors03)
Juan Bautista Figueroa De La Cruz
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 245 lb.
Juan Figueroa has pitched professionally for over 15 years, peaking in the US at AA. He has appeared in the US, Italy, Taiwan, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua during the course of his career.
Figueroa debuted in 1996, going only 2-6 with a 4.75 ERA for the DSL Brewers/White Sox. He came stateside with the '97 GCL White Sox, going 1-4 with a 3.36 ERA. In 1998, he fell to 5-5, 5.06 with the Bristol Sox, striking out 102 and walking 22 in 80 innings. He easily led the Appalachian League in whiffs, 25 more than anyone else, and was one of four Appy League hurlers to toss a shutout. On the other hand, he also led the league with 14 gopher balls. Baseball America named him the loop's #6 prospect, between Jorge Padilla and Brad Baisley. During the 1999 campaign, the big righty struck out 189 batters in 171 2/3 innings (though his walk rate rose, with 63 walks) for the Burlington Bees (8-4, 3.12) and Winston-Salem Warthogs (2-5, 5.27). Despite only spending part of the year in the Midwest League, he tied for 7th in strikeouts. He also had more Ks than any other Pale Hose minor leaguer, 40 ahead of Josh Fogg and 50 ahead of #3 Kip Wells. Among all minor leaguers, he tied Matt Riley for fifth in whiffs, trailing John Stephens, Geraldo Padua, Scot Shields and Rick Ankiel.
The Dominican opened 2000 with Winston-Salem (4-4, 4.67) and then took Mark Buehrle's spot with the Birmingham Barons and went 2-3, 3.40 there. Chicago then dealt Figueroa to the Baltimore Orioles with Brook Fordyce, Jason Lakman and Miguel Felix for Charles Johnson and Harold Baines. He was 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA for the Bowie Baysox in the remainder of the summer. Juan split 2001 between Bowie (3-10, 4.89, 126 H in 99 1/3 IP) and the Frederick Keys (5-0, 1.59). He tied for 7th in the Eastern League in defeats with three future major leaguers. For the year, he struck out 78 in 139 innings, a big drop-off from his prior three summers.
In 2002, Figueroa again did very well for Frederick (4-1, 2.28) but struggled with Bowie (1-6, 5.06). He moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals chain for 2003, now as a reliever, and had a good summer for the Tennessee Smokies (5-2, 2 Sv, 2.92, 44 K in 37 IP) but was not invited back for 2004. He went to Taiwan and posted a 1-2, 4.26 record for the Chinatrust Whales in '04.
Figueroa next moved on to Italy, where he spent several years. In 2005, he went 0-4 with 5 saves and a 2.45 ERA for Fortitudo Bologna. He was 0-1 with a 2.00 ERA in the finals, as Bologna won the title. He moved to T&A San Marino the next summer and returned to a starting role, going 6-6 with a 2.06 ERA. He was 6th in Serie A1 in ERA and 8th with 87 strikeouts. In 2007, he went 4-5 with a 1.94 ERA and a .198/.258/.233 opponent batting line for San Marino. He was again 6th in ERA (between Matteo D'Angelo and Linc Mikkelsen) and led with 100 strikeouts, 11 ahead of runner-up Jesus Matos.
Juan saw limited action with San Marino in 2008 (2-0, Sv, 0.80 in 3 G; he did not appear in the finals, won by San Marino) then moved to Grosseto for 2009. That year, he was only 4-7 despite a 1.83 ERA and 87 K in 88 1/3 innings. He was 5th in the league (now known as the Italian Baseball League) in strikeouts and third in ERA but also tied Brandon Camardese and Chris Cooper for fifth in losses. 2010 was his worst season to that point in Italy at 4-8, 4.19 even though his K rate remained strong (92 K in 77 1/3 IP). He won his second strikeout title (again beating out Matos, this time by 15) but nearly led in losses as well (one shy of leader Orlando Yntema).
In 2011, Figueroa pitched for Piacenza in the Italian minors. He also married an Italian woman and thus was no longer considered a foreign player for roster limits in the IBL. In the 2011-2012 Liga Nicaragüense de Béisbol Profesional, Figueroa went 7-5 with a save and a 4.53 ERA for Oriental. While he was nowhere near the ERA lead, he tied for second in the LNBP in wins and led with 74 strikeouts. When Dirk Hayhurst's deal with Nettuno fell through, Nettuno brought Juan back to Italy's top circuit as a replacement. He did not miss a beat, going 7-3 with a 1.87 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 77 innings. The veteran was 6th in strikeouts (between Matos and Mike Smith), tied for third in wins (behind Fabio Betto and Ricardo Hernandez) and led in ERA (.03 ahead of Santo Hernandez). In the 2012 European Cup, he beat DOOR Neptunus, 2-1, striking out 12 and allowing four hits before giving way after 8 innings to Carlos Richetti. In the semifinals of the Cup, he went the distance and traded goose eggs with the Amsterdam Pirates' Rob Cordemans for 8 innings. After Figueroa allowed no runs in the top of the 9th (wrapping up a 3-hitter without a walk), Cordemans was replaced by Nick Stuifbergen, who allowed the game's only run in the bottom of the 9th.