2013-14 International Reviews: Milwaukee Brewers
Top signing: OF Nicolas Pierre, Dominican Republic and SS Franly Mallen, Dominican Republic, $800,000 each.
Six-figure signings: RHP Nelson Hernandez (Venezuela), SS Henry Correa (Dominican Republic), C Johel Atencio (Panama), RHP Carlos Luna (Panama).
Total players signed: 21.
The Brewers went through their first July 2 last year under director of Latin American operations Eduardo Brizuela and director of Latin American scouting Manny Batista. Milwaukee paid $800,000 bonuses to their top two signings, though scouts from other teams seemed to hold Dominican outfielder Nicolas Pierre in higher regard.
Pierre, who played in the International Prospect League and trained with Nelson Montes de Oca, has a wiry body (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) with lots of room to add size and strength. He's an explosive athlete and an above-average runner with a good gait, so some scouts think he will be able to maintain his speed and stay in center field, where he has an average arm and gets good reads off the bat. Others wonder whether he will end up getting so big that he may end up in a corner. Pierre has solid tools all around, with a level swing that produces hard line drives. Some teams saw him make frequent contact in game situations and were encouraged that he seemed to improve as July 2 approached. He has gap power now that should increase to at least average raw power once he gets stronger. Pierre, along with the rest of Milwaukee's July 2 signings last year, will debut in the Dominican Summer League.
Milwaukee also gave $800,000 to Dominican shortstop Franly Mallen (video), who played in the Dominican Prospect League and trained with Basilio Vizcaino, who is known as "Cachaza." Mallen comes from a baseball family with multiple relatives who have played pro ball, including his uncle, Jose Uribe, who played shortstop for the Giants in the mid-80s and early ’90s. Mallen, 16, has a skinny, projectable build and is still around his signing weight of 6-foot-1, 160 pounds. Mallen doesn't have any particular standout tools, nor is he especially polished. His frame has plenty of physical projection and he's a solid athlete who uses a big leg kick to generate power in batting practice. He's not a big power threat, however, and he's still raw at the plate as he learns to manage the strike zone. He runs a tick below-average and scouts from other clubs question whether he might outgrow shortstop or has the feel for the position, though the Brewers believe he can stay there.
Cachaza also had Dominican shortstop Henry Correa, who signed with the Brewers for $137,500 on July 2. Correa, a 17-year-old switch-hitter, grew up practicing martial arts and impressed the Brewers with his athleticism, work ethic and the improvements he showed at the plate after signing. He's around an average runner with minimal power from his 6-foot, 160-pound frame.
Another July 2 addition, 16-year-old Venezuelan righthander Nelson Hernandez, signed for $200,000 after training with Jose Carrasquel. Hernandez, who pitched for Venezuela's 15U team that won the World Championship in Mexico in 2012, is a strike thrower with an advanced feel for pitching for his age. He threw 85-88 mph when he signed, but he's now up to 90-91 mph and should throw harder once he fills out his 6-foot-2, 170-pound build. He has shown feel for his secondary pitches, spinning a solid breaking ball with the early makings of a changeup.
Panamanian catcher Johel Atencio (video) signed with the Brewers for $130,000 on July 2. Atencio, 17, has a strong, compact build at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds and his best tool is his righthanded bat. He's an offensive-oriented catcher who's working to bring his defense up to speed. He has an average arm and is still learning proper technique behind the plate. He trained with Emilio Sempris.
The Brewers also gave $100,000 in July to another player from Panama, righthander Carlos Luna, a 17-year-old who had been a shortstop and third baseman for a while but moved full-time to the mound, where his athleticism is evident. He throws 89-91 mph with a chance for more velocity once he builds on his 6-foot-1, 175-pouns build. He's still working to come up with a consistent secondary pitch between his curveball and changeup, which are both at about the same level right now.