- Full name Humberto Figueroa Cota
- Born 02/07/1979 in San Luis Rio Colorado, SON, Mexico
- Profile Ht.: 5'11" / Wt.: 225 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Preparatoria Abierta
- Debut 09/09/2001
Organization Prospect Rankings
After winning the Pirates' 2001 minor league player of the year award and appearing in the Futures Game, Cota got off to a horrid start last season. He was hitting .189 on June 12 while bothered by a strained right shoulder. As Cota's shoulder improved, so did his batting average and he wound up spending a second straight September in the major leagues. Cota continues to improve as a hitter and has learned to hit the ball hard to all fields. He can turn on balls when necessary but hits more for average at this stage of his career. He's good at blocking pitches and has gotten much better at calling games. Cota needs to be more persistent with his conditioning as he tends to pack on extra weight. His throwing has never been better than average, and teams with speed take advantage him. More plate discipline would make him more productive offensively. Cota figures to stick in Pittsburgh this season, as he's out of options and longtime backup Keith Osik signed with the Brewers as a free agent. Though Cota broke the hamate bone in his wrist playing winter ball in Mexico, he shouldn't miss much time in spring training. His big league playing time will be limited behind Jason Kendall.
Acquired from the Devil Rays in a trade for Jose Guillen in midseason 1999, Cota has risen rapidly through the Pirates system. He was their minor league player of the year in 2001, when he also appeared in the Futures Game. Cota is becoming a good offensive catcher. He's showing the ability to hit for average while adding more power to his game each season. Cota also is developing the reputation of being a good clutch hitter. He's mobile behind the plate and very good at blocking balls. Like so many hitters in the Pirates system, Cota has weak strike-zone judgment. He's impatient and can be made to swing at bad pitchers. While Cota has made strides as a catcher, he has a below-average arm and can be scattershot with his throws to second base. Cota is in a tough spot as a catcher, with Jason Kendall and Keith Osik ahead of him in Pittsburgh and highly regarded J.R. House behind him in the minors. Cota almost certainly will go back to Triple-A in 2002 and have to wait until 2003 to get his crack at the majors.
The Pirates acquired Cota midway through the 1999 season from the Devil Rays, who signed him after he was released by the Braves because he refused the Braves' request to have shoulder surgery. Cota has a chance to be a good offensive catcher with the ability to hit for average and power. He struggled last year in making the jump from low Class A to Double-A, but hit better in the second half. He's agile behind the plate. Cota lost his plate discipline last season, striking out almost four times more than he walked and often being fooled by the offspeed offerings of more experienced pitchers. His arm strength is OK, but he has a slow release and often struggles with the accuracy of his throws. Cota was in over his head last season at Double-A and the Pirates may put him back there this year. With Jason Kendall ahead of him and prospects J.R. House and Ryan Doumit coming up behind him, his future with the organization is cloudy.
Background: Cota was originally signed by the Braves in 1995, but was released a little more than a year later because of a shoulder injury. Tampa Bay signed him in May 1997 through their working agreement with the Mexico City Tigers, Cota's team in the Mexican League. Strengths: Cota has built himself up through a dedicated workout program and the muscle shows with the bat. He's an aggressive hitter with easy plus power potential. His arm strength has recovered from his previous injury and the Devil Rays praise his take-charge attitude behind the plate. Weaknesses: While Cota's bat stands out now, his defense still needs work fundamentally, although there is nothing physically that will prevent Cota from becoming a solid catcher. The Future: One senses that the Devil Rays still aren't sure what they have yet in Cota and are anxiously looking forward to 1999 and his first year in a full-season environment. If Cota is able to reproduce the power he showed in1998 and maintain his defensive improvement, he could move way up on future Tampa Bay lists.
Minor League Top Prospects
Yes, another Hickory catcher. Washington's promotion made room for Cota, acquired from the Devil Rays in the second half as part of the Joe Oliver/Jose Guillen trade. Cota spent the first half of the season in the SAL with Charleston. "He has a great catcher's body and he handles pitchers very well," Eppard said. "I like the way he throws. He can swing the bat, too." Originally signed by the Braves at 16, Cota was released in 1996 after a dispute over an injury. Some in the Devil Rays organization questioned his work ethic, but Cota is personable and gregarious. His well-rounded game includes power, knowledge of the strike zone and solid overall defense.