Chourio blazing a new trail -- with way more to come

April 8th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MILWAUKEE -- Before there was MLB Pipeline, there was Baseball America, and for the first time in that venerable publication’s history, the Brewers have the game’s top prospect.

Five-tool outfielder jumped up to No. 1 on Baseball America’s top prospects list this week after the Orioles’ and the D-backs’ graduated from the list. It’s the first time a Brewers farmhand has held the top spot from any of the major prospect prognosticators.

“I always say I don’t envy the list creators, because it’s a colossal challenge,” Brewers VP of player operations and baseball administration Tom Flanagan said. “But just step back and look at what Jackson has been able to accomplish in such a short period. To go from not even on the fringes of the Top 100 to top of the list a year later is insane.”

We wrote this week about the two Brewers scouts who saw Chourio’s promise when he was a 14-year-old in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and fought for the organization to invest $1.8 million to sign him in the international period beginning in January 2021.

Chourio spent that summer at the Brewers’ complex in the Dominican Republic, then didn’t win a spot at a full-season affiliate at the start of ’22.

But once he got to a Minor League team, Chourio took off. He rocketed from Low-A Carolina to High-A Wisconsin to Double-A Biloxi, and shot up prospect lists at the same time. As he played Opening Day for Biloxi on Friday, Chourio was up to No. 6 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list.

“I think we look at it the same way he looks at it,” said Eduardo Brizuela, the Brewers’ VP and special assistant to the GM and baseball operations. “You acknowledge it and then move on and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a lot of work to do.' He’s pretty mellow about it. He wants to be a big leaguer.”

Still, Brewers officials are conscious that this level of hype can be a lot for a 19-year-old to shoulder. Before Chourio, the highest-ranked Brewers prospects on Baseball America’s preseason list were Rickie Weeks (No. 5 in 2004) and Ben Sheets (No. 5 in 2001), each of whom came into pro ball out of college.

But they believe Chourio has the capacity to do it, partly because of a long-term outlook that reminds Flanagan of a certain former top Brewers prospect.

“Ryan Braun, I remember stories about him flying out to the warning track in Brevard,” said Flanagan, referring to the Brewers’ onetime Class A affiliate in Brevard County, Fla. “That place was death for right-handed hitters. It’s heavy air, it’s deep. And he would come back to the dugout happy.

“Everyone was like, ‘Why are you happy? You just flew out?’”

Flanagan laughed as he recalled Braun’s response: “Hey, it’s gone at Miller Park."

"Chourio, maybe to a lesser extent, has that same mindset,” Flanagan said. “Last year, it told me a lot that on an off-day at Wisconsin, he got with a teammate and drove down [to American Family Field] just to see the park, to check another box. That tells me a lot about that kid.”

The Brewers informed Chourio very early in Spring Training that Biloxi was his likely destination to start the season. They provided him a list of areas to improve on the field, but they were all trumped, according to Brizuela, by one off-the-field priority: Work on his English language skills.

“For somebody who wants to be a big-league player, an impact player, you want to be sure he connects with his teammates and fans,” Brizuela said. “That’s extremely important. And I tell the players, that’s good for your personal brand as well.”

The Brewers have aggressively pushed Chourio from level to level as he proves it's something he can handle. That will continue to be the case in 2023, both club officials said.

Already, the club has young outfielders Garrett Mitchell and Joey Wiemer (MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 Brewers prospect) making an impact in the Majors and Sal Frelick (No. 2) making highlight-reel plays seemingly every day at Triple-A Nashville.

Chourio is quickly catching up.

“It’s important for him to know that there’s a lot of development to go,” Flanagan said. “The biggest test for him will be, OK, you’ve got another full season and you’re going to encounter adversity. How do you work through that? Narrowing those valleys, so to speak. You don’t want him to fail, but you want him to learn to deal with failure.”