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In First Full-Season Series Jackson Chourio Opens Eyes

There are probably plenty of logical explanations for the power outage Saturday night at Five County Stadium. A lightning strike might have hit a transformer somewhere around the ballpark. Perhaps a tree fell onto a power line during the storm that was surrounding the stadium. Maybe a fuse blew.

All of those make sense, but it also wouldn’t be crazy to think that there simply wasn’t enough electricity to power the stadium’s lights and Jackson Chourio’s bat at the same time.

Chourio—who signed with the Brewers out of Venezuela in 2021—is not only the youngest player at a full-season affiliate, he’s the only one who was born in 2004. After a scorching start in extended spring training, the Brewers made the call to bump Chourio past the Arizona Complex League straight to Low-A, where he’d join Milwaukee’s already-absurd pack of tremendously talented teenagers.

In his first series, Chourio dealt with weather that swung from sweltering to just above frigid, as well as lengthy delays for rain, the power outage and a blaring fire alarm. So, how’d he respond? By going 12-for-25 with five doubles, a home run, two stolen bases and two walks in 27 plate appearances, including a series finale that saw him go 4-for-4 with a home run.

“You know, he's a special, special player. He's got great bat-to-ball skills, squares the ball up, has exceptional bat speed, obviously has the power. On a normal day, he's got two home runs, well, three home runs today instead of one,” said Mudcats hitting coach Ken Joyce, referring to conditions in Sunday’s game that kept two of Chourio’s hits in the park. “Those are all things you see in guys who ended up getting the chance to play in the big leagues. He's got some of those skills and obviously can run and can play defense as well.”

The sheer numbers Chourio put forth over six games were impressive enough, but they were amplified by the maturity he showed during his at-bats. His home run was an opposite-field line drive after he’d worked his way to a full count.

A day earlier, Chourio found himself down a quick two strikes. He didn’t panic. Instead, he took the next three pitches to work the count full. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Chourio shot a single through the right side. That kind of maturity is rare enough from a player with his age and experience, but there was another element that made Chourio’s single stand out even further.

“The most impressive thing about the single backside is that the guy did a slide step with the runner on second. The guy quick-pitched him and he was still on time,” Joyce said. “When you see an 18-year-old mature enough in the batter's box that he recognized that the guy did slide step and he still didn't rush his load, didn't try to change his swing, but he was still on time and able to put that ball in play, whereas a lot of guys on a slide step were going to try to rush their swing.”

That mature approach came in handy plenty of times throughout the course of the series. Of Chourio’s 12 hits, eight came in a count with two strikes. He shows no fear when behind in the count and confidently lets pitches out of the zone pass by or uses impressive bat control to foul off tough pitches until he gets one to his liking. When he gets fooled during an at-bat, he adjusts and rarely gets beat on the same pitch twice. Even when he mis-hits balls, he’s still strong enough to drive them with some authority.

“The barrel awareness and the barrel accuracy that he has and the way he squares the ball up,” Joyce said, “that's what big leaguers do.”

Chourio is more than just a hitter, though, he’s a complete player, with gifts on both sides of the ball. All series long, he used excellent speed and instincts to glide to balls to his right and left while in center field. He made an especially impressive play on Sunday when he raced back and hauled in a ball hit hard and directly over his head on a line. He mis-read a similar ball earlier in the series that led to extra bases for an Augusta hitter.

He uses his speed on the basepaths, too, to swipe the occasional bag and to cruise from first to third or second to home with ease.

Chourio excelled in 2021 in the Dominican Summer League, where he produced an .884 OPS and struck out in just 14.8% (28 of 189) of his plate appearances. Now, after a quick start in extended spring training, he’s quickly proving himself as one of the sport’s most enticing young prospects.

“He's still young. He's still got a lot to learn, obviously, but there's talent there on both sides of the ball,” Joyce said, “and I think he's going to be a very good player for a long time.”

Ezequiel Tovar Billmitchell

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