Kevin Maitan has faced his share of criticism about his work ethic, conditioning, pitch recognition and shoddy defense. But the 19-year-old has taken a step forward at low Class A Burlington this season with his improved defensive play at third base.
Maitan had recorded a .935 fielding percentage through 60 games at the hot corner this season, compared with an .877 mark at Rookie-level Orem in 2018. He also had seen 21 games at second base at the Angels’ behest.
However, Maitan had not made the type of offensive impact that scouts expected when the Venezuelan ranked as the No. 1 international prospect in 2016. He signed with the Braves as a shortstop for $4.25 million, but he was granted free agency due to Atlanta’s international bonus scandal.
Maitan eventually signed with the Angels in December 2017 for an additional $2.2 million.
Maitan hit .219/.273/.317 with seven home runs through 85 games in the Midwest League. He had struck out 111 times.
“Sometimes when a player is given some money, and he has a lot of eyes on him right away, and the numbers don’t match up, people start to (label him a bust),” minor league field coordinator Chad Tracy said. “We try to keep in perspective that we’re still dealing with a teenage kid who has a lot of learning, a lot of growing to do.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Maitan has always had a strong arm and a quick first step, but he’s gaining a much better understanding of positioning, footwork and how to play angles.
“These guys get down the (first-base) line at the professional level, and sometimes when you play back on the ball and rely on arm strength, you have the tendency to rush, and the throws get away,” Tracy said. “Some the throwing errors a year ago were caused by the positions he was putting himself in when he fielded the ball.
Maitan has projectable raw power from both sides of the plate but is still learning his strike zone.
“The ability to impact the ball is there—that’s what makes him so appealing and exciting,” Tracy said. “When we can get that matched up with his strike-zone management . . . he has a chance to be a pretty special player.”