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Analyzing the Kevin Maitan Hype Train

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Kevin Maitan's name has been well-known to those who follow prospect news for some time now. With the 2016 international signing period slowly approaching, we take a look at the player and the hype surrounding his possible arrival in the Braves farm system.

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For many months now, the name Kevin Maitan has been one that has been on the minds of fans of the Braves farm system in addition to Braves execs and scouts. We are talking about the type of talent that has gotten the notice of MLB teams since he was just 13 years old and is widely considered to be the top free agent to be available during the 2016 international signing period. New member of the Braves' front office and former Fangraphs prospect guru Kiley McDaniel wrote at length at the promise that Maitan held even back then, although he understandably pumped the brakes a bit given that he was just 14 years old at the time the article was written in 2014 (he will turn 16 this week).

We are talking about a very young prospect has has already drawn comparisons to Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones from professional scouts, not just those of us who report and hope for such things to be true. In international prospect circles, comparing prospects to Miggy just isn't done given how highly he is thought of...but Maitan garners that sort of praise. Amongst Braves scouts, its clear why throwing around Chipper comps should not and is not taken lightly. However, this is the type of potential that is seen in Maitan in particular at the plate. He is a switch hitter who has played shortstop, but could play first, third, or in the outfield at the big league level. He has very real power now from both side of the plate (he could hit home runs in MLB parks right now despite just now being about to drive to them), is known to have a patient approach at the plate, drives the ball to all fields, has smooth actions on defense, and has all the tools and physical attributes you want in a baseball player. Its no wonder that the Braves want him

Now obviously, its one thing to want a player and its another to actually get him, especially a player with the talent rumored to be present in Maitan. However, its been among the worst kept secrets in baseball that Maitan and the Braves have a handshake agreement in place with the young slugger for somewhere north of $4 million which, for a teenage prospect out of Venezuela, is crazy money. However, with the Braves already set to blow WAY past their international bonus pool this summer, its pretty easy to see why they would want to make sure that they get at least some of the best players on the market. Sure, players like catcher Abraham Gutierrez and shortstop Junior Severino are definitely in the Braves' sights, but if the Braves are going in to the penalty (especially with the implementation of an international draft still up in the air for 2017 and beyond), a player like Maitan is exactly the reason why to do so.

There is lots of reasons to like the Braves chances in landing Maitan in addition to the rumored existence of a handshake agreement. First is that handlers of players in the international market have an incentive to honor agreements so that teams will continue to work with them in future signing periods knowing that they will be able to deliver on promises, etc. Is that reason that highlights the sketchy environment that is the IFA market? Absolutely, but that is the system that exists as of now. In addition, there are definitely going to be fewer teams that are going to be able to throw money around in the 2016 signing period. With the Angels, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Rays, Dodgers, Giants, and Royals (all of which are traditionally active in the international market) all unable to sign players to more than $300,000 signing bonuses due to going over their bonus pools in previous signing periods, the road is certainly a little less crowded on the way to signing players this go around.

However, thats not to say that its a given that the Braves will get Maitan despite being considered heavy favorites by many. Our friends over at Tomahawk Take had a very interesting take on Maitan's market and how the Cardinals have not given up on signing him. In addition, the Padres and Nationals are also going to be teams that blow through their bonus pools as well and will certainly give the Braves some competition in signing players with Maitan likely to be no exception. The Braves' interest in Cuban prospect Lazaro Armenteros did lead to some speculation that the Braves were hedging their bets a bit in regards to Maitan, but it rumor has it that Lazarito is likely to reach an informal agreement with a club and sign after July 2. While there has no confirmation that that team is the Braves, this writer finds it unlikely that these rumors coming immediately after the Braves had a private showcase with Lazarito is merely coincidence. Its also true that Maitan will be attending a big showcase of international talent in the Domincan Republic this week which could give other big league teams a better look at him and/or give them a chance to try and pry him away from the Braves.

In short, Kevin Maitan is not a sure thing either to sign with the Braves or be the next big thing at the big league level. Talent gets a player in to these conversations, but hard work and results keep them there. However, make no mistake, there are reasons why the Braves and the AJC have all of a sudden started producing content on Maitan in the last week or so. Its a good bet that Kevin Maitan will join the Braves system this summer and there is reason to be excited for his arrival. While we all need to temper our expectations for a kid who can't watch rated-R movies by himself yet especially when we are talking about a kid who is talking to MLB teams about millions of dollars when he is likely to have not come from much money at all growing up, it does highlight some of the most exciting aspects of the Braves rebuild...having players to dream on. With that, I will leave you with some of the little out there that exist of Maitan doing his thing as a teenager. Here's hoping we can look back on these in several years fondly instead of wondering what might have been.