With all of the talk of the draft swirling as well as rumors regarding the future of Fredi Gonzalez, its easy to forget that the biggest story of the summer for the Braves may very well be the haul that they get on the international free agent (IFA) market.
We could talk about how much money they Braves are going to have in there international signing pool but its pretty irrelevant as they are going to WAY outspend their pool. The current penalties for going over your signing pool include restrictions on spending in the IFA (J2) market during the next couple years, but with changes likely coming to that system once the collective bargaining agreement regarding the IFA system (and the possible imposition of an international draft), many pundits have identified 2016 is definitely the year to go on an IFA shopping spree.
In anticipation of such an exciting season, MLB Pipeline released its list of top 25 international free agents and the news is good so far for Braves fans.
Lets get the elephant in the room out of the way right now, the crown jewel of the class is Kevin Maitan and he is likely to sign with the Braves. While he will likely require $4 million plus to sign (and will certainly be a record for an amateur signing out of Venezuela), he is universally considered to be a special talent with a great hit and power tool to go along with an elite arm.
The switch-hitter currently plays shortstop but seems destined for third base or even the outfield, but his bat will play anywhere and is reason alone to get excited. Its worth noting that he is wearing a Padres hat in his picture on MLB Pipeline, but in virtually every other picture Maitan has taken in the last few months has him decked out in Braves gear. Braves fans will be nervous until he actually signs, but there is plenty of reason for optimism that Atlanta will get it done.
Its worth noting that Lazaro Armenteros (#4) isn't currently favored to sign with the Braves. The Cuban phenom boasts raw but high ceiling tools and excited Braves fans as he held a private workout for the team before deciding to wait for the upcoming signing period to sign. However, with the Padres considered to be major players on Lazarito as well as turmoil with his representation means that its not really likely he will sign with the Braves.
The Braves are also favored to sign catcher Abrahan Gutierrez (#17), shortstop Yunior Severino (#18), third baseman Yenci Pena (#21), infielder Livan Soto (#23), and RHP Juan Contreras (#25). Gutierrez was ranked lower here than we expected, but given the age of many of these prospects its hard to rank them reliably anyways. He is a gifted defensive catcher with a little bit of power and a good line-drive approach at the plate although don't expect him to outrun many folks.
Severino is a switch-hitting shortstop with good bat speed and tantalizing potential with his hit tool to go along with average defense, although speed is likely not going to part of his game much. Its worth noting that Pipeline seems to think that he will end up as a second baseman in the future.
Pena is currently a middle infielder out of the Dominican Republic but scouts seem to think he will end up moving to third with a good all-around skill set both at the plate and in the field. Soto is another middle infielder who is a contact hitter and at this point is not a big guy at all at 5'9, 140 but at 16 years old that could easily change.
Finally, the only pitcher the Braves are currently favored to get, Juan Contreras, is a righty with a mid-90s fastball, plus slider, and a changeup that needs work. Whether he sticks as a starter or turns in to a late inning reliever type depends on whether he can develop a third pitch, but for now scouts and Pipeline seem optimistic as to his chance at developing in to a starter.