Hometown kid Binelas drafted by Brewers

July 13th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Alex Binelas and some of his friends drove the 15 miles from home in Oak Creek, Wis., to American Family Field for Friday’s Reds-Brewers game, like they have done four or five times over the last month. The start of the MLB Draft was two days away and Binelas, a power-hitting corner infielder from the University of Louisville, was a top prospect -- so inevitably someone said what was on everyone’s mind.

“We’re sitting down the first-base line and they were like, ‘Isn’t it crazy or weird to you that we’ll be sitting in these seats and you’ll be in the batter’s box one day?’” Binelas said.

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He’s thought about it, of course. But it never seemed as much of a possibility as it did Monday, when his hometown Brewers drafted Binelas in the third round and gave him a chance to begin his professional career with the organization he rooted for as a boy.

Binelas is believed to be the highest Wisconsin-born Brewers Draft pick in franchise history. Before Monday, that distinction belonged to University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Josh Uhen, a right-hander drafted in the fifth round in 2013. The most notable home-state pick was infielder Jim Gantner from tiny Eden, Wis., who played all 17 of his seasons in a Brewers uniform and played in the World Series in 1982, though he was denied the thing that’s been on Binelas’ mind since he heard his name called Monday afternoon.

“I want to bring a World Series to Milwaukee. I want to be a part of that one day,” he said. “That’s always going to be in the back of my head, working up through the farm system and every workout that I go through. It’s something added onto me, that, growing up here, I want to help the organization as much as I can, because it’s what I’ve grown up watching.”

The Nationals drafted Binelas in the 35th round of the 2018 Draft out of Oak Creek High School, but he opted to attend Louisville instead, where he became a big-time power prospect after he hit 14 home runs as a freshman. Binelas suffered a fractured hamate in his right hand in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the collegiate season, and it took him some time to find a rhythm at the plate early in ’21.

Eventually, his power returned. Binelas finished his junior season with a .256/.348/.621 slash line and 19 home runs in 195 at-bats for Louisville, before putting on a show during MLB’s first pre-Draft Combine. MLB.com’s Jim Callis reported that, according to the Rapsodo data available, Binelas led all hitters in terms of maximum distance (446 feet), as well as both average and maximum exit velocity (98.244 mph and 109.3 mph, respectively).

“We’re excited about the bat,” Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson said. “Coming into the year, he might be one of the better college bats in the class, and I think he got a little overly pushed down the board just based off [his] rough start.”

Binelas described his hitting approach as “pretty simple."

"I don’t go up there sitting on pitches; it’s more of -- I’m getting my timing down to be on time for a fastball," Binelas said. "And then all the drills I do with keeping my hands back, weight back, if something offspeed comes I just keep my bat through the zone. So it’s not much overthinking. Just timing the pitcher, get my foot down early and [going] from there.”

Binelas played a lot of first base this season because of the way Louisville’s roster was constructed, but he sees himself as a third baseman long-term. The Brewers announced him as a third baseman and Johnson indicated that’s where Binelas will begin his pro career after he signs.

“Ever since I started playing baseball when I was 4 years old, it was, ‘I want to be a Milwaukee Brewer one day,’” Binelas said. “And now to hear my name called by the Brewers, it’s one step closer to that dream. And it’s awesome.”

Photo courtesy of Binelas family

The emotion momentarily overtook Binelas as he watched his name called via MLB.com’s Draft coverage. After some tears and hugs, he noticed his grandfather run out the front door and wondered where he was going.

A moment later, his grandfather reappeared wearing a Brewers jersey. He’d woken up with a feeling that morning, he told Alex.

“So many emotions were running through my mind,” Binelas said. “Obviously, I had my family there with me and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I started crying. The Draft process is a crazy process, and to end it with going to my hometown team, my dream place ever since I was a little kid, it all hit me at once. And it’s a moment that I’ll never forget.”