GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- From the time he picked up baseball at 6 years old to his teenage years in the Dominican Republic, Brewers prospect Gilbert Lara was used to being successful on the field.But the 19-year-old shortstop and Brewers' No. 17 prospect according MLBPipeline.com is facing adversity for the
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- From the time he picked up baseball at 6 years old to his teenage years in the Dominican Republic, Brewers prospect Gilbert Lara was used to being successful on the field.
But the 19-year-old shortstop and Brewers' No. 17 prospect according MLBPipeline.com is facing adversity for the first time in his baseball career.
Lara was ranked No. 4 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list when he signed with the Brewers for $3.1 million in July 2014, the franchise's largest international signing by more than $2 million.
That high price tag brought along high expectations, and Lara is feeling the pressure to perform. Through 66 games with Class A Wisconsin, he's slashing .191/.225/.268, with 79 strikeouts in 220 at-bats, and he leads the team with 16 errors.
"It's been hard having this tough season right now, because I never thought I was going to have these rough moments," Lara said through interpreter Fidel Pena. "Before I signed, I was always really good. I thought it was going to be easy, but I guess it's not."
After a summer stint with the Arizona League Brewers in 2015, Lara spent his first full professional season with Rookie-level Helena. Between the two teams, he finished 2015 batting .240 (59-for-246) with 13 extra-base hits. In 2016, Lara had a .613 OPS over 59 games with Helena.
When he moved up to Class A in April, Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson noticed his unbalanced batting stance. The 6-foot-4, 198-pounder stood too upright with poor head discipline, and it showed in his results. Of Lara's 31 hits in the first half of the season, only eight were for extra bases.
Lara worked with hitting coach Hainley Statia in an effort to change his stance, focusing on widening his foundation and using his legs more.
"He's done a really nice job of sticking with that plan over the last several weeks," Erickson said. "In the game, it's showed up a little bit. He's getting some better results."
While Lara described his season as having "a lot of lows," one bright spot for him has been his defense. MLBPipeline.com grades his fielding and throwing arm as a 50 and 55, respectively, on its 80-point scale.
"Defensively, as far as his hands, his footwork and his body control, moving front to back is above-average," Erickson said. "You can really see that when he's coming in off the run and throwing across his body."
• Brewers manager Craig Counsell said infielder Eric Sogard had "plateaued" in his comeback from a sprained left ankle, and Sogard told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he'd been administered a cortisone shot. His injury is proving more serious than the Brewers originally thought when they placed him on the 10-day disabled list just before the All-Star break.
"We'll have to make a decision [Sunday]," Counsell said. "We'll have to kind of decide on what's next. It's a little bit based on how he's feeling, and we may say he's just got to play through it and see how it's going to react, or if we have to do further tests. … It's not really getting better."
• Junior Guerra appears on track to come off the disabled list to start in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Brewers placed him on the 10-day DL after Guerra was struck on the right shin by a comebacker in his last start at Yankee Stadium.
"He does have another bullpen, but I think we're looking pretty good," Counsell said. "He's still got quite a bit of swelling. In doing his throwing, there's a pretty limited effect to it. I think we're looking good."
• Right-hander Brandon Woodruff was scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday with Rookie-level Arizona. The right-hander, No. 8 on MLBPipeline.com's list of the top Brewers prospects, has been on the DL since straining his right hamstring warming up for what was supposed to be his Major League debut on June 13 in St. Louis.
*Carson Mason * is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee.