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Art or Photo Credit: Design by Tom Forget

Brewers prospect Jackson Chourio is 'something special'

December 4, 2023

It wasn’t a poor showing, by any means. But Jackson Chourio, the wiry 14-year-old from Maracaibo, Venezuela, who played the infield and outfield but mostly liked to play “hitter,” wasn’t barreling the baseball when he showcased in Davie, Fla., for a crowd of scouts from across Major League Baseball. The Brewers’ representatives, Fernando Veracierto and Luis Pérez, knew enough about Chourio on his good days to know that this wasn’t one of them. They hoped other teams departed unimpressed.

“I think we are blessed that the kid on that day had -- I would say it was a fair showcase,” said Veracierto, Milwaukee’s Latin America crosschecker. “Luis and I didn’t care if the kid hit the ball or not that day. We knew he was special.”

So, they put it in writing. The Brewers’ brass, up to then-assistant GM Matt Arnold, believed. And a couple of years later, Chourio is not only Milwaukee’s most hyped prospect in years. He's also a big part of the franchise's future, after signing a record 8-year contract with two team options that could keep him with the Brewers through 2033.

Veracierto and Pérez both want it to be known that this is not just a story about two dogged scouts. It’s a story about an entire scouting and player-development apparatus, from the area scout in Maracaibo to the front office in Milwaukee, all of whom made a commitment to a teenager with immense promise. And of course it’s a story about the talent and drive of that young man himself.

“I said, ‘If you want to sign the No. 1 international player, don’t miss Jackson Chourio,” said Pérez. “Our bosses supported us. Our bosses believed us.”

Said Veracierto, coming up on two decades in scouting with the Red Sox and Brewers: “We had the blessing to sign one of the most talented kids I’ve ever seen in my career. He can do things like Juan Soto, like Ronald Acuña Jr., like Fernando Tatis Jr., like Julio Rodríguez. … We have plenty of players that have a chance to be really good. But Chourio, he is a different animal.”



Chourio knows about the hype. He isn't yet 20 and seems to perpetually wear the smile you’d expect on someone coming off the most joyous baseball season of his life. Chourio comes in at No. 2 in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100; he began the season at No. 6 thanks to a remarkable 2022 season in which he was the youngest player at Single-A, the youngest player at High-A and the youngest player at Double-A. He’s the highest-ranked Brewers prospect since Orlando Arcia reached No. 6 overall in 2016.

Baseball America had Chourio ranked No. 3 overall going into 2023. That made him the highest-ranked Brewers prospect in the history of that publication’s Top 100, just higher than Rickie Weeks (No. 5 in 2004) and Ben Sheets (No. 5 in 2001), according to Editor in Chief JJ Cooper. The only Brewers outfielder ever to crack BA’s Top 10 before Chourio was Greg Vaughn, who ranked ninth in 1990.

Does Chourio track these matters?

“Not really, but I have a feel,” he said last spring. “I understand what has happened.”

What happened was what Brewers vice president and special assistant to the general manager and baseball operations Eduardo Brizuela called an “unbelievable” performance in 2022. Chourio entered the year highly regarded but somewhat unknown, then became known to everybody by slashing .288/.342/.538 in 439 plate appearances between Single-A Carolina, High-A Wisconsin and Double-A Biloxi. He hit 20 homers, 30 doubles and five triples while stealing 16 bases. His superior speed and quick reflexes made him a fine center fielder.

By the time he made it up to Wisconsin, the hype was intense. Coaches there watched closely to see how Chourio would handle it all.

So did the Brewers’ general manager.

“We had a Major League player on rehab. I won’t say who because it might hurt his feelings,” said GM Matt Arnold, breaking a smile. “I went up to see him in Wisconsin. The whole crowd was over to get balls signed by Chourio, and not by our big leaguer on rehab. It didn’t faze Chourio at all. I think he kind of likes it in a way -- but with some humility. He knows he’s a big deal.”

Arnold has been around players like that over the years. Early in his career when he worked for Texas, it was Alex Rodriguez. In Cincinnati, it was Ken Griffey Jr.

“Those guys had this next-level ease about how great they are,” Arnold said. “It’s not fair to compare [Chourio] to those types. But the ease with which he operates is like that.”

Arnold occasionally had to remind himself of Chourio’s youth.

“He was doing all this at an age he could have been playing at Whitefish Bay High School,” Arnold said, referring to the Milwaukee-area hamlet that he and Brewers manager Craig Counsell call home. “When you think of it like that, this is unbelievable what he’s doing.”

Also watching closely was Brizuela, who happens to be one of the highest-ranking officials of Venezuelan heritage in baseball. He was conscious of the pressure building on Chourio as his star rose throughout the summer.

“That’s something that we always ask ourselves as we go through this process, just to have a sense of protection for the kid -- especially with him being so young,” Brizuela said. “With him, we have no indication that is going to affect him.

“He’s very humble, he understands where he stands right now, he understands there are going to be a lot of high expectations. But at the same time, it’s most important that he understands that he needs to get better, that there are still areas for him to improve. That’s what drives him every single day when he gets to the park.”

Chourio hit a career-high 22 home runs in a 2023 season spent mostly at Double-A Biloxi, then kept hitting in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he slashed .379/.453/.530 in 17 games before calling it a season.


Chourio has been driven since he was very young. He began playing baseball at age 4 and says he believed in his heart by the time he was 12 that he could play professionally. He credited a longtime coach, Jorge Cequera, and his father, also named Jackson Chourio. It’s clear the younger Chourio comes from good genes. Chourio’s younger brother, Jaison, is playing in the Cleveland Guardians organization. And there’s another brother, 11 or 12 years old, Veracierto said, whom scouts are following closely.

“My dad was there every day, seeing how I was working out and helping me improve throughout the years with my game,” the younger Jackson Chourio said.

He was the centerpiece of the Brewers’ international signing class in January 2021, scoring a $1.8 million bonus. Like so many good scouting stories, this one is a story of relationships.

Pérez, who was then Brewers assistant to the international scouting director, and Veracierto, who was Venezuelan scouting supervisor, had played winter ball for Tiburones de La Guaira with Chourio’s advisor, Cesar Suarez. When Chourio was 14, Suarez convinced Pérez to take a look. Pérez was so impressed that he called Veracierto, who was at a tournament in Medellín, Colombia, with Brewers international scouting director Mike Groopman, and told them to come to Florida as soon as possible.

“When you see a Venezuelan kid with those tools at 14, 15 years old, that’s not common,” Veracierto said. “We identified quickly that, hey, we have something special here.”

Scout Fernando Veracierto and Chourio, when he was just 16 years old.

Said Pérez: “When you have been seeing Venezuelan players for 10 years, you can realize, ‘That guy is different than other ones.’ When I saw Jackson, I said, look, time out. I know he is a little bit inconsistent in BP and against pitchers, but he is totally different than other players.”

During a phone call, Arnold asked Pérez, “Are you 100 percent sure?”

Pérez was close but wanted one more look at Chourio against live pitching. He and Veracierto organized a private showcase in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, with all of the Brewers’ Venezuelan staff -- everyone from supervisors to area scouts to video technicians to strength and conditioning specialists. They brought in the best pitchers they could find.

“The first at-bat, he struck out,” Veracierto said. “Second at-bat, Chourio struck out. But it’s not all about swing and miss, right? It’s about what can this kid flash us at a young age?”

I thought to myself, this is the right guy. There’s no doubt. I asked Fernando, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Luis, don’t miss that guy.’ So, I put my neck on the table for that kid.

Scout Luis Pérez

In Chourio’s third at-bat, he faced an older prospect who was throwing 90-92 mph with advanced breaking stuff and command. Chourio hit a hard ground ball to shortstop and the scouts clocked his sprint to first base at 4.1 seconds. That opened eyes.

He had one more at-bat.

“Same pitcher,” Veracierto said. “Fastball, middle away. Chourio was able to hit a line drive to the opposite field to the wall. We knew we were in front of a pretty special talent.”

Said Pérez: “I thought to myself, this is the right guy. There’s no doubt. I asked Fernando, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Luis, don’t miss that guy.’ So, I put my neck on the table for that kid.”

Pérez phoned Arnold and Groopman.

“This is the kid,” he told them.

When it came time to finalize an agreement, Arnold was in Biloxi visiting the Brewers’ Double-A team. He was having dinner at that steakhouse tucked into the large casino that neighbors the ballpark and answered the phone while navigating to a quiet spot away from the noisy slot machines.

An hour later, a deal was in place that represented the Brewers’ biggest investment in an international prospect since shortstop Gilbert Lara received a record $3.2 million bonus in 2014. Lara’s story reflects the risk inherent in multimillion dollar investments in teenagers. Nine years later, he has played seven games above the Double-A level and has yet to make the Majors. The Brewers traded Lara to the Nationals in a 2018 deal that landed Gio Gonzalez.

“What really helped us with Chourio is we had a lot of early history with him,” Arnold said. “You have to be careful in that space. You can go to a workout and the balls are fake, or the pitcher is tipping signs, or the bat is juiced. All these things can happen.

“Our group, to their credit -- Fernando, Luis Pérez -- did a wonderful job. You could feel the passion on the line about this player.”

Going on four years later, that hasn’t changed.

“We did our job as scouts and we had the support of our bosses,” Pérez said, “They trusted our evaluations and they approved the signing bonus for Jackson Chourio. He is so mature. He plays the game the right way with high energy. He loves to compete. He loves baseball. You can have all the tools, but you have to love baseball.”

Pérez has been fortunate to see Chourio play all over the past few years, from the Dominican Complex League to the Venezuelan Winter League to Zebulon, N.C., and Appleton, Wis. He was there when Chourio debuted for the Timber Rattlers in front of a big crowd and smacked a single up the middle on the second pitch he saw.

“He’s a player that knows what he’s got,” Pérez said. “But he plays hard and he plays right. I’m proud for Jackson Chourio.”


Left photo features scouts Luis Pérez (L) and Fernando Veracierto.

Chourio wasn't in the Brewers’ big league camp in 2023, but he looked right at home when he’s around big league players. Last winter, he spent some time at American Family Fields of Phoenix hitting with a number of the Brewers’ Major League players, and said he took a particular liking to fellow outfield prospect Garrett Mitchell. One of the other hitters on hand was Keston Hiura, the last Milwaukee prospect before Chourio to crack MLB Pipeline’s Top 100.

“He’s a lot younger than I was when I went through it,” Hiura said. “The biggest thing is having fun. Through the Minor Leagues and these days in Spring Training, this is when you make some of the best memories of your life. Absorb as much as you can from everything around you. And have fun.”

“With the language barrier, and as young as he is, the fact he seems as comfortable as he is, that’s huge,” Mitchell said. “He’s the next up and coming. He was at Double-A, so he’s a call away. And he’s a good dude. If this is where he ends up being in the future, we want to make him comfortable and give him hugs and let him be himself. He has to remember that the way he plays the game is what got him here. I think the Brewers do a good job of letting us be ourselves.”

Chourio made his first appearance of 2023 in the Brewers’ exhibition against Great Britain’s World Baseball Classic club and doubled twice, including a line drive that carried over the left fielder’s head. He also threw out a runner at the plate from left field. You know a prospect is for real, Counsell said, when other players in the dugout take immediate notice.

As Counsell sees it, bring on the hype.

“Hype is great,” the manager said last spring. “The player earns the hype. You should celebrate it because the player earned it; absolutely he earned it. At the same time, those hurdles, the player learns they never stop. Somebody keeps putting a hurdle in front of them. Somebody keeps putting something else in front of them. It's never-ending. I'm sure he's started to feel that.

“He's got to perform for the rest of his life, you know? He got exposed to the rest of the world for the first time last year, and hopefully he does that stuff for 20 years.”

Chourio was asked what he believes to be the strength of his game.

He smiled and said, “To hit.”

Is that the best part of baseball?

“Yes,” he said. “I like it a lot and I feel like I’m really good at it.”

A form of this story was originally published on April 6, 2023.

credits: Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook. Design by Tom Forget.