Brewers Academy?

Milwaukee exploring D.R. options

A few years ago, the Brewers pulled the plug on their Dominican Academy and turned to an odd blueprint: Scout the Caribbean country for a few gems, and then funnel those prospects directly to the Arizona Summer League.

Recognizing that its method has its flaws, the organization is now back to the drawing board.

Assistant general manager Gord Ash on Tuesday confirmed the Brewers' desire to re-assert their Dominican presence with an academy that would place Milwaukee on equal footing with the other 29 clubs.

A decision could come before the end of spring training after Ash and other front office personnel pitch their idea to principal owner Mark Attanasio.

"We ventured out a few years ago to do this in Phoenix but it didn't give us the results we were hoping for," Ash said. "It was an interesting approach. But we're going to go back to the traditional approach."

The Brewers disbanded their Dominican academy in 2003, yet made efforts to show that they remained a significant player on the island, aggressively dipping into the country's deep talent pool.

In 2005, for example, the Brewers successfully signed the Dominican's top amateur pitcher, Rolando Pascual, for a $710,000 signing bonus.

However, the Brewers have come to terms with the philosophy of funneling players directly to the U.S.

In essence, they recognize that their teenage prospects are being overwhelmed when matched opposite college-age players in the Rookie-level Arizona Summer League and that the social adjustments to the United States continue to be a great hurdle.

The issues reflected this past season in a dead last, 13-42 record in the Arizona Summer League.

Not that the finish should have come as a great surprise. The Brewers' did so with one of the youngest rosters in the circuit, with two players born in 1991 and nine born in 1990.

By contrast, six other teams in the league combined for 23 players born in 1990 and two in 1991. The Royals fielded a roster of 12 born in 1990, and another born in 1991.

"We felt we could have a competitive advantage of sending a player straight to the U.S.," Ash said. "But it's an adjustment itself to be a professional player."

Brewers international scouting director Fernando Arango said the organization has had discussions of re-visiting an academy in recent years and is optimistic that something can be accomplished.

To Arango, a Dominican academy would offer many benefits for recently signed teenagers as well as others that graduate on to a U.S. affiliate.

For instance, other clubs have wisely used their Dominican academies after the season from September to mid-December to re-train Latin players that were in the U.S. most of the season.

By contrast, the Brewers will try to get a head start on 2009 by staging a pre-spring training this month. The program will last through March, Arango said.

But …

"Sometimes when you find a diamond," Arango said, "you have to spend some time polishing it."

Details of the Brewers' academy have yet to be worked out. Ash said it was too early to say whether the organization would partner with another club on a facility, a venture other clubs have undertaken in recent years.

The Brewers reportedly have been in discussions with former closer Salomon Torres, who owns land in the Dominican and already leases a facility to the Braves and Rangers.

A complex near San Pedro, opened in 1990 by a Japanese club, is being used for the pre-spring training site. However, Arango said that only a skeleton crew oversees the grounds and that players are bused in from a hotel 10 minutes away.

Another option could be a nearby facility leased by the Phillies, who are moving into a new complex themselves. But the Phillies' current complex won't come open until March.

All in all, the Brewers will continue to funnel their recent Dominican signings to the Arizona League again this season as the organization explores the re-opening of an academy.

"We're not really sure what we're going to do," Arango said. "But we know this year is going to be the same as last year."