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Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio is well on his way to becoming the face of the franchise

In Sports
April 11, 2024

One of the biggest storylines in baseball this season is the loaded rookie class. And in a group with tremendous talent, the youngest player among them could end up being the best of the bunch.

In the town of Maracaibo, Venezuela — which has yielded many big leaguers, including Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio — the Milwaukee Brewers found a young, wiry outfielder by the name of Jackson Chourio. And even though the 20-year-old is just nine games into his major-league career, the Brewers believe that he will one day be the face of their franchise.

“Something told me, ‘This is going to be a special kid,’” Brewers field coordinator Nestor Corredor, who met Chourio when he was 17, told Yahoo Sports. “The way he approaches the game, the way he takes care of business, the way the ball sounds off his bat — there’s something special coming out.”

The Brewers signed Chourio out of Venezuela at the age of 16 in 2021, and he wasted no time showing what he could do on the diamond. After arriving in the U.S., Chourio rocketed through Milwaukee’s system and was not only the youngest player at each level but also the best.

In three seasons in the minors, Chourio slashed .286/.347/.490 while showing an elite combination of power and speed and becoming a true five-tool player. Since his pro career began in ‘21, he has gone from a relative unknown to the top of every prospect list in the game. He’s currently considered the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, behind only the Orioles’ Jackson Holliday, who made his big-league debut on Wednesday.

This past winter, Milwaukee signed Chourio to an eight-year, $82 million extension, the largest contract ever signed before a player’s MLB debut. With the monster extension complete, the expectation was for the Brewers’ top prospect to make the team out of spring training.

“I’m very honored to be here in Milwaukee and have the organization believe in me,” Chourio told Yahoo Sports this spring. “I’m ready to put on a show for the big leagues and all the fans who haven’t gotten to see me play.”

But as new Brewers manager Pat Murphy emphasized throughout camp, nothing was going to be given to the young outfielder. There weren’t going to be any shortcuts.

“I don’t think being easy on him is the way,” Murphy said. “Love is the way. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. … And I think we [have told] him, like, ‘Hey, man, this is your path.’ But we have to be there for him because it’s hard to navigate.”

Said Chourio: “I wanted to do everything I possibly could to make this team. I think the biggest thing I tried to do during the winter was get my body right and to prepare for a full season here. I wanted to be ready.”

Milwaukee clearly believed he was, as he broke camp with the big-league club as the team’s Opening Day right fielder. In his debut against the Mets, Chourio went 1-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a stolen base. Through nine games this season, he’s batting .278 with two home runs and seven RBI.

Corredor, who joined the Brewers’ major-league coaching staff in 2021, is also from Venezuela and managed Chourio this past offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League. Through that experience, the two built a relationship, with Corredor trying to be a sounding board for his countryman as Chourio prepared to navigate his first major-league season.

“I knew his ability as a player, but when it came to the personal side, I paid attention even more because I knew the club would be looking for feedback,” Corredor said of their time together in Venezuela. “And it was that laugh, playing loose, that energy he brings in the dugout and the clubhouse — he’s always talking, always laughing. He’s a funny kid. He has a lot that makes people want to be around him.”

Chourio’s abilities are undeniable to anybody who watches him. But not even the game’s best are exempt from the reality of big-league pressure and expectations. That’s especially true for a player who was a teenager a month ago.

“We had a lot of conversations during the winter. We had a lot of conversations after he signed the extension,” Corredor said. “Spring training was challenging for him, no doubt. He came out to spring training with the extension, and he was thinking that he had a lot to prove to people. You saw a few mistakes in the field and struggling at the plate, but then he started to play a little more loose.

“He realized that he didn’t have to impress people. He just had to be himself. And now we’re seeing it. I think in the future, when he understands big-league life, he’s going to be even better than he already is.”

There’s no doubt that the Brewers understand the type of talent Chourio is; it’s why they’ve already invested so much in him. But at the end of the day, he’s still the youngest player in MLB, and there’s still a learning curve ahead. Before becoming the All-Star talents we see today, players such as Austin Riley, Marcus Semien, Aaron Judge and even Mike Trout went through their ups and downs after early calls to the big leagues.

For Chourio, being so young gives him time to grow into that finished product, and along the way, the Brewers, particularly shortstop Willy Adames, are doing everything they can to help him feel supported.

“Everybody on the team has been really helpful, but Willy has helped me and taken me under his wing,” Chourio said. “A lot of advice. This year, our lockers are next to each other, so it gives us an opportunity to talk more and to pick his brain each day. It’s been very helpful.”

Added Murphy: “Encouragement always works. I think that’s the key. That Jackson believes when we tell him, ‘Hey, we believe in you, man. We really do, and we’re here for you.’”

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