2019-20 MLB International Reviews: Milwaukee Brewers
In 2019, the Brewers aggressively scouted Venezuela, with 11 of their top 12 signing bonuses going to Venezuelan players this year.
Venezuelan outfielder Hedbert Perez is one of the elite talents from the 2019 class, with an exciting combination of athleticism, tools and advanced baseball skills on both sides of the ball for 16. He trained with his father, Robert Perez, an outfielder who played six seasons in the big leagues mostly with the Blue Jays from 1994-2001. Hedbert Perez is one of the best hitters in the 2019 class and projects to stay at a premium position. He's 5-foot-11, 180 pounds with a compact, efficient swing from the left side, a high-contact hitter who barrels balls to all fields. It's an easy stroke and he controls the strike zone well, laying off close pitches and working himself into favorable counts, with a chance to develop into a plus hitter.
He has at least 55 raw power—he hit balls into the second deck at Miller Park in batting practice when the Brewers brought him there in July after signing—and it should be consistently plus or better power in the future. With his approach and contact frequency, it's power that he should be able to tap into in games. He has consistently performed at a high level in games, both as an amateur in Venezuela and since signing between Tricky League and instructional league. When Perez started training in his dad's program at 14, he had good mechanics at the plate and in the field, but he was 5-foot-9, skinny and a 7.5 runner in the 60-yard dash. As he's gotten stronger, he has sliced a full second off his 60 time, showing at least plus speed now. He's an excellent athlete who should be able to maintain that speed, and it plays up in center field because of his instincts. Perez reads balls well off the bat, accelerates quickly and takes sharp routes with good body control and closing speed in center. He's a potential above-average defender with a plus arm, with good carry and accuracy on his throws. Perez is also a fluent English speaker who draws praise for his confidence and leadership skills.
Milwaukee's biggest bonus signing this year for 2019 was Luis Medina, a 16-year-old Venezuelan outfielder who trained with Alexi Quiroz. He has a big frame (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) and some of the biggest power in the 2019 class. It's at least plus raw power and shows flashes of better, with a chance for 70 power. Medina generates that impact with a loose lefty swing, using his hands well with solid strike-zone judgment for his age.
Like a lot of young hitters with huge power, Medina can get pull-happy, drifting his weight out front early and pulling off the ball, which leads to some swing and miss. Even when he does, his hands and barrel awareness are good enough at times to still connect, but staying through the ball better will help him cover pitches on the outer third better. An average runner, Medina does have good defensive instincts in center field, his range will probably lead him to a corner, especially as he fills out. He has the tools to be a good defender in right field, with a 55 arm that could tick up to plus.
Jeferson Quero, another Brewers signing out of Venezuela on July 2, has emerged as one of the most promising catchers in the 2019 class, standing out for his ability behind the plate and in the batter's box. Quero, who played for Venezuela in the 2015 Little League World Series, has a strong, durable frame (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) for his age and has a chance to be a plus defender. His blocking and receiving technique are advanced for his years. He's a quick, athletic mover behind the plate, transferring to a plus arm that allows him to record pop times down to the low 1.9s in games.
Quero's intelligence and leadership also earn high marks and should endear him to his managers and pitchers. In addition his standout catch-and-throw skills, Quero has also excelled offensively, performing well as an amateur and keeping it up since signing in Tricky League. It's a combination of contact and impact, with a low swing-and-miss rate to go with big power. Quero has a good approach for his age and a natural ability to drive the ball the opposite way, leading to hard contact all over the field with the ability to go over the fence from left-center over to his pull side already, projecting for plus power. Quero trained with Eduardo Navarro.
Jheremy Vargas, a 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop the Brewers signed from Guillermo Quintero's program, has consistently hit well in games, both as an amateur (he played for Venezuela in the COPABE 14U Pan American Championship in Chihuahua, Mexico in 2017) and since signing in the Tricky League. Vargas (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) sticks out more in games than he does in a workout. He's a potential high on-base threat who makes a lot of contact in games and has sharp strike-zone discipline.
Vargas is mostly a line-drive hitter with gap power. While he's not that big, he does have broad shoulders, with a chance for some of those doubles to turn into home runs as he gets stronger, though it's likely to be a hit-over-power profile. An average runner, Vargas doesn't have the acrobatic flashiness of some other shortstops, but he has a chance to stick at shortstop with secure hands, good field awareness and a solid-average arm.
Alexander Perez is another 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop the Brewers signed on July 2. Perez (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) hit well in games as an amateur in Venezuela, working inside the ball well with good bat control. He will expand the zone at times, but he generally has a solid approach for his age and makes a lot of contact with good plate coverage. His power is mostly to the gaps but that has started to flash better as he's added strength. Perez is athletic and has has a good chance to stay at shortstop with a solid-average arm.
National League Central Prospect Notebook For June
Our major league correspondents file a prospect report for each National League Central organization, headlined by a Brewers lefthander who has recovered his power stuff.
The Brewers signed 17-year-old Dominican third baseman Alberto Ciprian, who trained with Angel Perez, for $500,000. Above-average raw power is Ciprian's calling card. He's 5-foot-11, 165 pounds with a combination of strength and explosive hand speed to smash the ball, already driving balls over the fence to the opposite field in batting practice. Ciprian has solid plate patience to be able to draw walks, though his power is ahead of his pure hitting ability. He has an unconventional swing that can get choppy through the hitting zone, so Ciprian has lowered his hands in his setup to try to be more direct to the ball. Ciprian's advanced strength for his age leads to big power and an above-average arm at third base. He has a chance to stay there if he improves his footwork and learns to slow the game down in the field.
Beyker Pastran, 16, is another Venezuelan shortstop the Brewers added on July 2. He's a versatile player who doesn't have a standout plus tool, but he does a lot of things well with a chance for an array of average or near-average tools. At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Pastran has solid for hitting and strike-zone discipline for his age, with gap power from the right side of the plate. Pastran is primarily a shortstop, where he has a chance to stick, but he plays all around the infield and the outfield and is a fundamentally sound defender everywhere he goes, with 45 speed and a 55 arm with a good release. He trained with Kander de Pablos.
Another Venezuelan shortstop the Brewers signed on July 2, 16-year-old Jose Caballero, is a slick fielder and the son of Tony Caballero, a longtime scout in Venezuela who worked for the D-backs this year. At 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, Caballero lacks the present physical strength of a lot of his peers, but he's smooth and fluid at shortstop, light on his feet with quick hands and is adept on the double play pivot. He's a solid-average runner who shows at least an average arm, with a good chance that ticks up once he gets stronger. He's a smart player who also has international tournament experience, joining Vargas at the 2017 COPABE 14U Pan American Championship in Mexico. Caballero also impressed the Brewers with his swing mechanics and bat-to-ball skills, though he doesn't project to be much of a power threat.
Eduarh Colina is a toolsy 16-year-old outfielder the Brewers signed out of Venezuela on July 2. It's a little harder to get the same detail of report on Colina compared to other signed players because he has yet to come over to the Dominican Republic to passport issues, but he's a potential power/speed threat in center field. At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Colina is an aggressive hitter from the right side of the plate, with his raw power, speed and arm strength all earning above-average grades.
As an amateur training with Jose Bellorin in Venezuela, Jose Gonzalez worked out as a shortstop but moved to center field after signing with the Brewers. Gonzalez, 17, has the tools to play there, with plus speed and a plus arm coming from a compact 5-foot-10, 165-pound build. Gonzalez has generally performed well in games. He's an aggressive hitter with a fast bat, a line-drive approach and gap power.
Mauro Garcia, 17, is a Venezuelan infielder the Brewers signed on July 2. He's a 5-foot-9, 150-pound switch-hitter with solid contact skills and doubles power. He's a below-average runner with an average arm who could end up moving around different positions in the infield.
Jesus Garcia is a Venezuelan catcher who signed with the Brewers on July 2. He has a strong, compact body, with a good arm and the tools to stick behind the plate, though he's going to need to iron some things out with his righthanded swing. Garcia trained with Jose Genoves.
Another Venezuelan catcher the Brewers added, 16-year-old Blayberg Diaz, was a lower-dollar signing who has trended up. Diaz (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) was an offensive-minded, catcher when he signed but has made significant progress with his catch-and-throw skills.
One sleeper to watch from the class is Luis Watter, a 16-year-old Dominican infielder/outfielder who got $35,000. He's small (5-foot-8, 150 pounds) but tooled up, an 80 runner with a 60 arm on the 20-80 scale, moving around between shortstop, second base and center field, with a slap-and-dash offensive approach from the right side of the plate. Another lower-dollar player to note is Venezuelan righthander Yujanyer Herrera, who signed when he turned 16 on Aug. 17. He's one of the youngest players in the class but has already reached 93 mph with more physical projection remaining in his 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame and good feel for a changeup for his age.