Baseball’s international signing period opens in less than a week. It should be yet another rewarding time for the Milwaukee Brewers, as the team is linked to several top prospects. In fact, David Stearns and company are connected to four of Baseball America’s top international free agents. We’re giving you a preview of the players ahead of the July 2 signing period.
First and most highly regarded is Eduarqi Fernandez, listed at 28th on Baseball America’s rankings. The Brewers are said to be giving the talented outfielder a signing bonus over $1,000,000. Anyone who’s been following the Brewers scouting over the last few years won’t be surprised that the most common word that comes up Fernandez is “toolsy.” At this point, Fernandez has a strong hit tool but little power due to a slender frame. Scouts believe that will change as he matures. Fernandez is projected to play center field, but there’s flexibility there due to an above-average throwing arm and strong reads. There’s lots of concern about swing and miss tendencies in his swing, but at just 16 years old, it’s hard to accurately determine whether that’s a habit that will stick.
Next is Mexican catcher Fernando Villalobos, who ranks at 34 on BA’s list. As with most young catchers, Villalobos is being touted more for his offense than his ability behind the plate. His left-handed swing is smooth for a player of his age that currently generates doubles power to the gaps. Villalobos is athletic with a decent arm, but needs to work on receiving should he hope to remain behind the plate.
Milwaukee is also being tied to third baseman/shortstop Branlyn Jaraba. Jaraba, BA’s 41st overall international prospect, is a powerful 16-year-old who could have a 60 power tool, if not more, at maturity. The youngster is slow and has an average arm that limits his defensive ability. He can man third base now, with increased footwork and better reads he should be able to stay there throughout his career.
Finally, Milwaukee has strong connections to BA’s 49th prospect, Venezuelan shortstop Eduardo Garcia. As one of the youngest members of the class, Garcia won’t be able to sign until July 10, when he turns 16. An instinctual fielder, Garcia receives much acclaim for his ability with the glove. Despite the excellent defense, he often looks lost at the plate and shows inconsistent mechanics.
Milwaukee has one of the larger bonus pools at $6,025,400. The team is likely to sign many more names than the players listed, but these four are currently the ones to watch as they travel through the system over the coming years.