Since the Brewers had a big reorganizational move in 2012 and brought in Manny Batista to take over international scouting duties, the team has shown a renewed focus in latin american prospects. Through these means, they have given out big-money bonuses to players like Nicolas Pierre, Franley Mallen, Gilbert Lara and more.
The Brewers have also began actually, honest-to-god scouting in Cuba and were only a few million from the contract first baseman Jose Abreu eventually signed with the White Sox, though Milwaukee believes they were being used more as a bargaining chip. The Brewers have also worked out top Cuban star Yoan Moncada recently and are still a (large) darkhorse to sign him.
In his latest article for MLB.com, Jesse Sanchez has the Brewers among teams interested in two other top Cuban stars, as well: 18-year-old pitcher Yadier Alvarez and 21-year-old infielder Andy Ibanez.
Ibanez is currently eligible to sign with any team, while Alvarez still faces several obstacles before he can join an MLB organization. The first step for that will be Alvarez establishing residency, then a few additional legal hurdles allowing him to work in the U.S.
Alvarez is highly regarded, though, with Sanchez saying he has the upside of a strong number two pitcher in the majors. He's got room to fill out yet, at 6'3" and 175 pounds, but already touches 98 with his fastball. At a showcase earlier this year, one 'high ranking' official called Alvarez the 'best 18-year-old pitcher' he had ever seen.
Of course, given how young Alvarez is, he still has plenty of work to do. Unlike many acclaimed Cuban exports, he won't be ready for the majors for several more years in all likelihood. The Brewers are, obviously, not the only team intrigued as Sanchez lists a full third of MLB teams as being interested.
Ibanez has a lower ceiling than the more talked-about Cubans, with comps like Placido Polanco and Howie Kendrick being his upside. A second baseman by trade, it seems like Ibanez could sign quickly after Yoan Moncada receives whatever huge deal he's going to get.
Most reports don't see Ibanez as an All Star, but someone who could make an impact at the major league level. He's athletic and has a good glove, but doesn't have any standout tools, according to Baseball America. He has shown a great eye at the plate, with more walks than strikeouts in his most recent professional season along with a .267/.377/.435 line.
Both players are subject to international signing guidelines due to their youth and inexperience. Because of the Brewers' big $3.1-3.2 million contract with Lara in 2014, they are already looking at possible monetary fines for going over their signing budget. Depending on how much money Ibanez or Alvarez get, the Brewers could see additional sanctions if they were to sign either player. Of course, in Alvarez's case, he might not even be eligible to sign until the next international signing period.
How interested the Brewers actually are is up for debate as well, naturally. For now, it's just Jesse Sanchez -- who usually has a good finger on international baseball -- saying they are among many teams that will be looking at the two players.
Still, the Brewers holding a private workout with Moncada, making a big push for Abreu and being mentioned among other teams for Alvarez and Ibanez is super exciting. After years of seemingly mostly ignoring the international market, the Brewers have had a renewed focus these past few years. They may not be able to price out other teams on players like Moncada, but it's possible these two are more likely to fall within Milwaukee's budget. It may still be a while before either finds a deal, though.