2016-17 International Reviews: Milwaukee Brewers
Top signing: OF Pablo Abreu, Dominican Republic, $800,000.
Total signings: 24.
Milwaukee's top bonus last year went to Pablo Abreu, a 17-year-old Dominican outfielder who signed for $800,000 on July 2. Abreu's above-average bat speed from the right side sticks out the most. He's 6 feet, 170 pounds, Abreu can occasionally put a ball over the wall in BP, but he's mostly a gap hitter. He has the hand-eye coordination that should help him at the plate, though there's length and some stiffness to his swing, so he's still learning to sync everything up in games for better performance against live pitching. Abreu tracks balls well in center field and has a solid arm, but he's a fringe-average runner, which adds risk of him moving to a corner with a possible tweener profile. His projected offensive production fits much better in center field, so the Brewers will play him there, though down the road he might rotate between all three outfield spots. Abreu trained with Amauris Nina.
The top-ranked player the Brewers signed last year was Jean Carlos Carmona, a 17-year-old shortstop who got $725,000 on July 2. Carmona, who trained with Angel Gonzalez, was one of the best hitters in the International Prospect League. He's physically mature for his age at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds with a strong, stocky build and a knack for making hard contact in games. Carmona is a switch-hitter with good barrel awareness and a sound swing, especially from the left side. He's a line-drive hitter with gap power now and could grow into average or better power. Carmona is a solid athlete for his body type and is an average runner (though he will likely slow down) with good footwork at shortstop. Like they have with Gilbert Lara, the Brewers will let Carmona get the opportunity to stay at shortstop, though many scouts felt he would change positions to become an offensive-minded second baseman or possibly go to third base.
Francis Florentino wasn't a high-profile player, but the Brewers signed him for $500,000 on July 2. When the Canadian junior national team traveled to the Dominican Republic in May to face a team of Dominican prospects, Florentino performed well, going 3-for-3 in that game. He's 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Florentino is a 17-year-old who drew the Brewers' attention as a bat-first player with good bat speed and hitting instincts from the right side of the plate, along with gap power. He's a corner outfielder, with his speed and arm strength likely leading him to left field. He trained with Ramon Genao, known as "Papiro."
Venezuelan outfielder Anderson Melendez is a 16-year-old the Brewers signed for $400,000 on July 2. He's 6-foot-2, 165 pounds with a chance to be a power hitting corner bat. Melendez is a righthanded hitter who already drives the ball well to the opposite field and has a solid idea of the strike zone, likely with a power-over-hit profile. Melendez trained with Alexi Quiroz.
In July, the Brewers also signed 18-year-old shortstop Antonio Pinero, who came to the organization under unusual circumstances. Pinero was one of the five Venezuelan players that Major League Baseball removed from the Red Sox last year right before July 2 for what the league determined was bonus pool circumvention. Pinero signed for $375,000, with only $75,000 counting toward their bonus pool, since MLB's decision was that only the amount above Pinero's original $300,000 bonus with the Red Sox would count against his new team's pool. Between the DSL Red Sox and Brewers, Pinero batted .211/.275/.223 in 197 plate appearances. Those numbers are underwhelming, with Pinero still extremely skinny (6-foot-1, 155 pounds) and needing to gain strength. Right now he stands out more in the field, where he has soft hands, clean footwork and is a fundamentally sound player with a good arm. He makes up for below-average speed with a quick first step to enhance his range. At the plate, Pinero is a switch-hitter with a better swing from the right side. He has solid bat-to-ball skills, but he has to get stronger to be able to do more damage at the plate.
Dominican shortstop Victor Maria signed with the Brewers for $375,000 on July 2 after training with Raul Valera, known as "Banana." Maria, 17, is a fundamentally sound player in the field, with speed and arm strength that both grade out around average. His defense is more developed than his righthanded bat, showing solid contact skills but needing to put more strength on his 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame.
Jean Carlos Cruz is another 17-year-old Dominican shortstop who stood out for his defense. Cruz, who signed with the Brewers for $350,000 on July 2, is 6 feet, 165 pounds with an above-average arm and a good transfer. An average runner, Cruz added strength since signing, especially in his legs, which has helped him drive the ball better from the right side of the plate.
Dominican outfielder Luis Valdez signed for $325,000 in December. Valdez jumps out for his physicality at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and a chance to be a power bat from the right side of the plate.
In Venezuela, the Brewers signed 17-year-old righthander Brayan Salaya for $250,000 on July 2 out of Johan Ocanto's program. He's 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with a fastball that has been trending up, reaching 93 mph with projection to throw harder. Salaya has an aggressive mindset on the mound with good feel for pitching and an advanced changeup for his age, with his changeup further along than his breaking ball.
They also signed 17-year-old catcher Robert Molina for $200,000 on July 2. Molina isn't that big (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) but he should stick behind the plate because of his solid catch-and-throw skills with an average arm. He's a righthanded hitter with his defense more developed than his bat.