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T-Rat Talk: Luis Lara

Youngest Rattler is one of Midwest League's top prospects
June 10, 2024

Luis Lara is one of the youngest players in the Midwest League. The Milwaukee Brewers outfield prospect is also one of the most exciting players in the Midwest League. Kyle Lobner talked with Lara about his season, his prospect status, and coming back from an injury to make an impact

Luis Lara is one of the youngest players in the Midwest League. The Milwaukee Brewers outfield prospect is also one of the most exciting players in the Midwest League. Kyle Lobner talked with Lara about his season, his prospect status, and coming back from an injury to make an impact for the Timber Rattlers in this edition of T-Rat Talk.

Injuries are an unfortunate constant in professional baseball but, until recently, it wasn’t something Timber Rattlers outfielder Luis Lara had needed to worry about. He played in 58 games for the Dominican Summer League Brewers in his professional debut season in 2022, 87 more for the Carolina Mudcats and Timber Rattlers in 2023 and 38 games for the Timber Rattlers in April and May and, until one fateful moment at second base, he had never even missed consecutive games.

During a May 18 game against Beloit, however, while Lara was stealing his 17th base of the season his hand came into contact with a defender’s spikes, leaving a cut that required stitches and left Lara unable to put on a batting glove until the wound had healed. As a result he was off the field for most of three weeks before returning to the Timber Rattlers lineup on Wednesday.

“He (Lara) doesn’t like to be on the bench. He definitely feels rested now, though, and he’s just ready to give it all that he’s got on the field again. He’s excited to be back,” Lara said through translator and Timber Rattlers Development Coach André Ruche.

Lara wasted no time making an impact in his first game back, however: He went 2-for-4 at the plate with a stolen base on the day he was activated from the injured list, driving in a run with a double and two more with an eighth inning single as the Rattlers rallied to beat Quad Cities. While Lara has made his fair share of game-changing plays both at the plate and in the field, he said the former is more fun.

“Getting a hit in the game (is better) because that’s the hardest thing to do, so it’s almost like double the emotions when that happens and he comes through like that,” Lara said through Ruche.

Many of the biggest plays on Lara’s career highlight reel have come on the defensive side. Like many high-performing defensive players Lara’s game in the field is a combination of instinct and athleticism, and he said it’s always been that way.

“He says that he doesn’t have any secrets and that since he was little he’s been making incredible plays and incredible throws and it’s just innate,” Lara said through Ruche.

Getting hits may be harder, but that doesn’t mean Lara has struggled to do it. He was the second youngest player in the Midwest League (trailing only Fort Wayne catcher and MLB Pipeline #5 overall prospect Ethan Salas) when he was promoted to that level for the first time in 2023 and he still managed to collect 20 hits in 17 games for Wisconsin. He said that experience down the stretch at the High-A level in 2023 helped him know what to expect when he returned for the 2024 season:

“I already had an idea coming into this year how this league plays out,” Lara said.

While the physical side of his game is similar to what it was a year ago, Lara said the biggest difference between his game now and when he came to Wisconsin for the first time is on the mental side.

“He feels like he plays the same every year, but the way that he looks at the game is different. The way that he makes adjustments, the way he focuses on his work every day, that’s definitely evolved,” Lara said through Ruche.

Obviously Lara is a year older in 2024 but he’s still the third youngest player in the Midwest League, coming in three days older than Dayton third baseman Cam Collier. This season the Timber Rattlers are the youngest team in the Midwest League and even among that group Lara is easily the youngest player on the team, seven months younger than infielders Dylan O’Rae and Luke Adams.

Being the youngest player on multiple teams on his way up the ladder has been a point of pride for Lara but it also means he’s faced more advanced pitching than many players of his generation: Since playing in the United States for the first time in 2023 Lara has racked up nearly 600 professional plate appearances, and in every single one the opposing pitcher has been older than him.

“He says he has a lot of pride in the fact that he is in this age and he is in this league. He knows that on the field there might be older guys, but they’re all the same, they’re guys, and he’s ready to compete against anybody,” Lara said through Ruche.

Being 19 years old in the Midwest League is one thing, though, and being 19 years old on a field with major leaguers is another. Lara got to experience that this spring when he played in 13 Cactus League games for the Brewers. He got hits in each of his last two games for the big league team this spring, including a home run off MLB veteran Humberto Castellanos on March 24.

“It was definitely something amazing, being able to learn from the big leaguers every day. That’s definitely helped his game out. He’s just very happy that he got that experience with them,” Lara said through Ruche.

Through Friday’s games 68 Venezuelan players had appeared in the majors this season. The list includes three members of the 2024 Brewers: Jackson Chourio (also a former Timber Rattler), Andruw Monasterio and William Contreras. Lara cited one of those fellow countrymen as being a major leaguer he connected with during spring training.

“William Contreras definitely got close to me, we even went out to go eat lunch once, and he was always just trying to show me different things in the game that could help me out as I continue,” Lara said.

Back in Appleton, Lara is one of seven Venezuelan Timber Rattlers (pitchers Yujanyer Herrera and Edwin Jimenez, infielders Jadher Areinamo, Gregory Barrios and Jesus Chirinos and outfielder Jheremy Vargas are the others) and his home country is a major source of pride for him. Lara can regularly be seen wearing the Venezuelan flag or colors on the field on a chain, headband or both.

“He’s very proud of being Venezuelan. He feels happy to be able to play and represent his country and he’s always just trying to raise Venezuela and take it to the major leagues and show it off,” Lara said through Ruche.

If prospect evaluators have anything to say about it, Lara will likely get an extended opportunity to represent Venezuela in the majors someday. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs, Keith Law of The Athletic, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB Pipeline all had Lara ranked as one of the Brewers’ top ten prospects this spring, with Longenhagen ranking him the highest at #6.

“He said it’s a blessing to be on those lists,” Lara said through Ruche. “It doesn’t put pressure on him, if anything it’s to the contrary, it gives him a lot of confidence and makes him stronger when he’s up at the plate or in the field.”

Prospect evaluators are high on Lara despite his non-conventional body type: He’s listed at 5’9” and 151 pounds, and only 17 players at that height or below have gotten into an MLB game in the outfield this season.

“There’s definitely been doubters throughout his whole career, but that’s never stopped him. He’s looking forward to it never stopping him, and he’s just going to keep working hard and playing hard,” Lara said through Ruche.

While Lara will always have to overcome doubts about his size, he said the biggest thing he’s working on this season is adding strength and durability to his frame.

“He says he feels like he’s a pretty good performer on the field, but the biggest thing for him is going to be his body, just getting stronger, being able to withstand more. That’s his biggest focus as of late,” Lara said through Ruche.