By Bob Behre
(Photo credit gorhody.com)
Former Elizabeth High School and Rhode Island University star Martin Figueroa made a strong impression in his professional debut last summer with the Houston Astros rookie league affiliate Greeneville (Tenn.).
Figueroa, who was known during his high school days as Martin Tavares, changed his last name in college. Nothing changed about Figueroa’s approach to the game, though, including his continual improvement.
Figueroa’s huge junior season at Rhode Island truly turned the heads of professional scouts. He batted .327 that campaign with 73 hits, including 22 doubles, a triple, 8 home runs and 43 RBI. He slugged that season at a .543 clip to finished with a gaudy .931 OPS.
The Astros plucked the 5-11, 205-pound catcher/infield in the 32nd round of MLB’s First Year Players Draft last June and assigned him to the Greeneville Astros. Figueroa was one of 25 players with New Jersey roots selected in the 2017 MLB Draft.
Figueroa appeared in 21 games with Greeneville and produced a .273 batting average in 66 at bats. He had 18 hits, including two doubles, a home run and six RBI. His OPS was .742. He also posted a .985 fielding percentage behind the plate while nabbing potential base-stealers at a 29 percent clip.
At Rhode Island, Figueroa placed himself on several of the school’s all-time record lists. His five runs scored and five hits in a single game in 2016 and his 1.000 fielding percentage in 2017 are tied for first all-time at Rhode Island. His 22 doubles in 2016 is tied for third all-time and he is fifth all-time at Rhode Island in extra-base hits in a season (31 in ‘16), doubles in a career (49) and longest hitting streak (15 games in ‘16).
Figueroa batted above .400 his junior and senior seasons at Elizabeth High when he earned All-Union County and All-State mention.