14th-rounder Avina's signing a family affair

August 1st, 2021

ATLANTA -- No matter where Jace Avina’s path in baseball takes him next, he knows he’ll always have one fan in his corner.

The Brewers this weekend signed Avina, their 14th-round pick in the MLB Draft out of Spanish Springs High School outside Reno, Nev., where the 6-foot-2, right-handed-hitting outfielder was Nevada’s 2021 Northern 5A Region offensive player of the year. The deadline to sign Draft picks is 5 p.m. CT Sunday, and Avina put pen to paper a few days earlier for a $255,900 signing bonus.

Avina, who had a college commitment to Nevada were he not to sign, was huddled with his family around MLB.com’s Draft Tracker when they got the news he’d been drafted. The group included Jace’s brother, Austin, a baseball fanatic who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old.

Besides being one of Nevada’s top baseball prospects, Jace Avina takes care of his big brother.

“Doctors were telling my parents that he wouldn’t be able to speak or any of that stuff,” Jace Avina said. “We put him through therapies, and I wanted to help him out, so I started teaching him how to play baseball, teaching him how to play soccer. He’s now playing all of these sports in the Challenger League that brings all of these kids together. That’s kind of my story with Austin.”

Austin attends all of Jace’s baseball games, and Jace returns the favor by volunteering at every Challenger League event Austin plays.

It’s a full plate between high school, playing baseball and taking care of Austin.

“My brother is my No. 1 priority,” Jace said. “Baseball is a big priority, but I always make time for my brother, even with a tight schedule.”

Avina said he’s been a Christian Yelich fan ever since Yelich's days with the Marlins, so he has followed the Brewers a bit from afar. Avina is a natural center fielder but has played all three outfield spots as well as the middle infield, and he said he’s open to any of those positions. He described himself as, “a hard-working person who always wants to win and is a great teammate. I always try to hit for a high on-base percentage, [I'm] a great defensive outfielder or infielder wherever you want to put me. They’re just going to get a person who will put in nonstop hard work.”

Most high school picks begin their professional careers at the Brewers’ facility in Phoenix, home to a pair of Arizona Complex League teams.

“Good, athletic body and tools,” Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson said. “Reno is hard, because some of the areas and in the country don't get the right overlap to get a guy seen as much, and Reno is one of those areas. Also, the weather can be somewhat tough up there at times. So, it was kind of got a late start as far as people getting out there and seeing him enough, and he just didn't get probably to the profile he maybe deserves. But he's got a chance to play center. He can run. It’s a right-handed bat that we think's got potential as well.”

If Avina didn’t sign with the Brewers, there was an opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps to the University of Nevada, where Armando Avina was a kicker and punter on the football team.

“I knew [the Brewers] were interested in me, but I was really shocked when I got picked by them,” Jace Avina said. “My advisor was talking a lot with the Astros, and they were going to make a move on me.”

The Astros had the 418th overall pick in Round 14.

The Brewers selected Avina one spot earlier.

“I heard my dad start yelling, ‘Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!’ And the Brewers name came up,” Avina said. “It was exciting.”

The Brewers signed 16 of their 21 Draft picks before Sunday’s 4 p.m. CT deadline, including Avina, Skyview (Vancouver, Wash.) High School left-hander Caden Vire ($497,500 bonus, 12th round and Chatfield (Littleton, Colo.) High School first baseman Quinton Low ($347,500, 13th round) in the waning days.

Milwaukee also signed three undrafted players: Jefferson [Mo.] Community College right-hander Trevor Tietz (a native of Watertown, Wis.), Wake Forest right-hander Shane Smith and Green [Ohio] High School left-hander Jacob Brustoski.

That meant five players drafted by the Brewers did not sign: Outfielder Roc Riggio (11th round), left-hander Hunter Hollan (15th round), catcher Will Rogers (17th round), left-hander Carter Holton (19th round) and right-hander Samuel Mendez (20th round). Mendez, 28, a former semi-pro basketball player in the Dominican Republic, garnered some notice on Draft day as the oldest player on record to be drafted.

Last call
• Milwaukee's patient approach with ’s comeback from a right hamstring injury has paid dividends so far, with manager Craig Counsell saying on Sunday, “Everything's great with Lorenzo. The longer rehab stint was more his idea, actually. And I think it's worked out really well. I think it's done him a lot of good. I feel like we got a player back that there was no sign of an injury, no sign of anything like that. You feel like he's kind of in midseason form.”

• Having cleared a section of the second-half schedule with a number of off-days, the Brewers are back to a six-man rotation to give their pitchers extra rest. The announced starters for the next series against the Pirates are on Monday, on Tuesday and on Wednesday.

Top prospect Garrett Mitchell has been sidelined for the past week by a minor, non-COVID illness but was nearing a return to action as of Sunday.