Here's what to expect from Chourio in the Majors

December 4th, 2023

The Jackson Chourio Era is nigh.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect has signed an eight-year, $82 million Major League contract with the Brewers, MLB.com reported. The deal comes with two club options that could keep the outfielder in a Milwaukee uniform through the 2033 season, when he would still only be 29 years old, and those options -- at $25 million apiece and including escalators and incentives -- could make the total value of the deal amount to more than $140 million over the full 10 years, a source told MLB.com.

It’s the longest and largest contract ever signed by a player with zero Major League service time, besting the six-year, $50 million pact signed by White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Jr. in 2020.

Those are the long-term effects of the deal. In the much more short term, Chourio’s immediate placement on the 40-man roster could make him an Opening Day option for the Brewers. Milwaukee’s top prospect, who turns 20 on March 11, would become the first 2004-born player to reach the Majors, were he to break camp with the big club.

The Venezuela native has even earned the consideration after one of the most impressive Minor League power-speed performances in recent memory.

Chourio finished the 2023 season with 22 homers and 44 stolen bases across 128 games between Double-A Biloxi (where he played the vast majority of the season) and Triple-A Nashville. In so doing, he became just the fifth teenager to reach the 20-40 plateau in the Minors since 1958, joining Ronald Acuña Jr. (2017), Alex Escobar (1998), Andruw Jones (1995), and José Cardenal (1961) on that list.

That inclusion alongside Acuña and Jones might have a lot of Wisconsinites jolting out of their chairs, and while Chourio has a ways to go before he can truly earn comps to the reigning National League MVP and a five-time All-Star, this isn’t the first time the comparison has been made by people close to the player.

“I know he's been good with us in the past, but right now, he's a different guy,” Single-A Carolina manager Victor Estevez told MLB.com in July 2022. “I compare him to an Acuña type of player. Any of those young guys who made it to the big leagues early, I compare him to those types of players, to be honest.”

The raw tools are certainly there.

Chourio earns plus-plus grades from evaluators for his speed, and he’s used those wheels to swipe 68 bags over his first three Minor League seasons. That ability to run has also treated him well in center field, where he shows ample range after moving there from his amateur position as a shortstop. (He even told MLB.com in September that short remains his favorite spot on the diamond.)

As a right-handed slugger with an ability to drive the ball well to all fields, Chourio also displays the potential for at least 60-grade power. His 22 homers for Biloxi were the most at Double-A by an age-19 player since 2006, beating out fellow Top 10 prospect Junior Caminero (20) and other notable boppers Fernando Tatis Jr. (16, 2018) and Giancarlo Stanton (16, 2009).

The ability to hit Major League pitching out of the gate is Chourio's biggest question mark.

He has struggled with outside breaking pitches in the past, and he opened last season with just a .254/.308/.418 line and 24.6 percent strikeout rate over 44 games in April and May. That coincided with the Southern League using a pretacked ball that aided with pitch rise and movement in the first half, and by July, Chourio was one of the Minors’ hottest hitters with a .388/.447/.718 line, six homers and a 10.6 percent K rate in only 19 games. The Brewers believe that was as much about Chourio adjusting to the level over time (rather than simply a causal effect of the ball change), but it wouldn’t be a shock if it takes the youngster a similar amount of time to find his footing against top-level pitching.

Chourio, whose arm is considered a little below average, will also need to establish his standing in a Brewers outfield corps that already felt crowded. Recent prospect graduates Sal Frelick, Garrett Mitchell and Joey Wiemer can all play center field more than capably, and Christian Yelich, Tyrone Taylor and new acquisition Jake Bauers could be factors in the corners. It’s worth noting that Chourio made 107 starts in center for Biloxi but four of his five defensive starts for Triple-A Nashville came in right, in deference to a then-rehabbing Mitchell. He’s been back in center exclusively in the Venezuelan Winter League, making all 15 of his appearances there.

The truth of the matter is, barring Yelich’s past, no one in the Brewers outfield group can match Chourio’s ceiling. Clubs make room for that type of prospect instead of getting concerned about the depth chart, and with the size and timing of this long-term deal, Milwaukee is making this clear -- it’s ready for its superstar.