The Milwaukee Brewers may have uncovered a diamond in the rough in 2014, and his name is Alfredo Figaro. The 29-year-old hurler flashed a formidable right arm and untapped potential out of the bullpen in his first year in Milwaukee. His under-the-radar season and promising future impact make Figaro the Brewers’ secret weapon.
His fastball sits in the 95-98 range out of a quiet delivery, giving the pitch an explosive appearance out of his right hand. Figaro can burn hitters with the heater, but has trouble elevating it, and he lacks a plus, second pitch to truly keep the opponents honest. Missing an above-average changeup or breaking ball in his repertoire limits his ceiling at the MLB level, leaving his skill set best-suited for a relief role.
His overall numbers last year aren’t going to jump off the page at a glance; sporting a 4.14 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a painful 1.8 home runs per nine innings (HR/9) doesn’t necessarily instill confidence. You need to look deeper to see where Figaro’s value lies.
Due to a handful of injuries, Figaro was pressed into a starting role five times last year, the main source for all his issues. When Figaro was coming out of the pen, he was far better at commanding the fastball, and the limited exposure didn’t give hitters a chance to read his pitches.
As a reliever, Figaro tossed 49 frames and owned a 2.94 ERA. He also held batters to a .292 on-base percentage, though he still allowed a .710 OPS thanks to his propensity to be taken deep. However, his HR/9 did fall to 1.3 out of the bullpen — nothing to write home about, but manageable considering his ability to keep runners off base.
Figaro’s WHIP as a reliever was 1.18 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio moved up to 3.67, as he walked just nine guys in a shade under 50 innings. Take it a step further to Figaro’s final 12 appearances, all after his run of starts, and he looks all the more impressive. The HR/9 rate tumbles to 0.92 and the hitters’ OPS falls to .626, stats that should entice the coaching staff further.
He brings added value to the club in his ability to throw multiple innings. While starting should be left to emergency situations only, tossing two or three frames allows him to face hitters only once (maybe twice), keeping the important advantage of unfamiliarity. Picking up the slack for a short start, saving the high-leverage arms for bigger spots, and keeping the team close or ahead during the middle third of the game are all essential prolonged success.
If the Brewers play their cards right with Figaro and give him those particular roles out of the pen, they’ll have a significant, under-appreciated aspect of the bullpen locked up. With proper development and mentoring, Figaro could become an even more important piece of the Brewers’ puzzle in the future, and a not-so-secret weapon anymore.