International Reviews: Milwaukee Brewers

Top signing: C Jose Sibrian, Venezuela, $550,000. 
Total signings: 20. 
The Brewers took an unorthodox strategy in 2014, when they signed just two international players all year. They poured all of their 2014-15 bonus pool money into Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara, signing him for $3,097,000, so all of their hopes from that class are pinned to Lara. The Brewers took a different approach in 2015, spreading their money around to a variety of players mostly in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Panama.

The organization’s top signing was 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher Jose Sibrian, who got $550,000 on July 2 after training with Jose Montero. Sibrian, who is 6 feet, 175 pounds, came up through the Venezuelan youth league as a third baseman, then in 2014 became a catcher. He took to the position quickly and looks fairly natural behind the plate, impressing scouts with his athleticism, plus arm and a chance to be a solid-average defender with his catch-and-throw skills.

The split among scouts with Sibrian was on his offensive upside. Some scouts didn’t see muchprogress from Sibrian’s righthanded bat last year, though the Brewers liked his bat speed, understanding of the strike zone and ability to use the opposite field with gap power. As a catcher who will stick behind the plate, Sibrian should get plenty of opportunities to figure it out at the plate. Teams always need a lot of catchers in spring training, so Sibrian is in Arizona now and will stay for extended, though it’s still to be determined whether he would start in the Rookie-level Arizona League or the Dominican Summer League.

Aaron Familia, who signed for $370,000 on July 2, trained with Enrique Soto and Jaime Ramos, the same duo who had Lara. After scouting Lara extensively, the Brewers had a lot of history with Familia and were drawn to his righthanded bat. Familia, 17, doesn’t have Lara’s huge power, but he has room to grow into more sock once he fills out his 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame. Showcased as a shortstop in the Dominican Republic, Familia is a below-average runner who will likely slide over to third base or an outfield corner.

Venezuelan center fielder Jesus Lujano, who signed for $350,000 on July 2, impressed scouts with his hitting ability and defensive instincts. Lujano isn’t very big (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) but he’s a lefty with a short, compact swing with good bat control and a mature approach for a 17-year-old. He tracks pitches well, works the count and is able to hit line drives to all fields, though he doesn’t project to hit for power. Lujano’s below-average speed was a concern early on, but he started running faster and became an average runner with an average arm, which combined with his outfield instincts should allow him to develop as a center fielder. Lujano trained with Ricardo Petit.

Another July 2 signing, 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Luis Manon, got $200,000 after training with Valentin Monero. Manon stood out for his lively, athletic frame (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) and above-average speed. He’s a switch-hitter who just began hitting from the left side a year before he signed, with his athleticism standing out more than his hitting ability. Players in Panama often have some polish after playing in the organized youth leagues there.

Outfielder Bryan Connell, who signed for $179,500 on July 2, is a bit different, standing out more for his physicality than baseball polish. At 17, Connell is 6-foot-3, 195 pounds with a chance to hit for power from the right side as a corner outfielder with solid athleticism for his size.

One sleeper from the class is Luis Avila, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop signed for $25,000 in July who’s already capturing attention for his slick defensive skills. A skinny 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, Avila has soft hands, is light on his feet with a good internal clock and an above-average arm at shortstop. He could develop into an intriguing prospect is his righthanded bat progresses.

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