Updating The Scouting Report On New Free Agent Kevin Maitan
The news that Major League Baseball has made Kevin Maitan a free agent will understandably set off a bidding war.
Maitan was the No. 1 international prospect in the 2016. Before he was declared a free agent, he ranked ninth on the updated and still loaded Braves Top 10 Prospects list. Teams rarely get a second chance at signing this kind of talent on the open market.
But as Maitan hits the market again, he’s going to be a tough player for teams to evaluate because his pro reports vary pretty distinctly from his glowing amateur reports.
But everyone in baseball knew pretty early in 2015 that Maitan was going to sign with the Braves. Once that happened, other clubs stopped scouting Maitan in detail. For most teams, the majority of their amateur reports on Maitan are going to be from 2014 and early 2015, which means they are now two to three years old.
Maitan made his pro debut in 2017. He stood out in extended spring training, but those who saw him in the Appalachian League and instructional league were much less impressed.
So teams will have to decide, how much do they rely on what their international scouts saw (when Maitan looked like a future star) and how much do they depend on those less-impressive 2017 pro reports?
2018 Appalachian League Top 20 MLB Prospects
While performance is taken into consideration, tools and future projections by scouts are paramount.
“When you don’t see a guy for two or three years you are forced to go with more recent info,” said an American League front office official. "Different teams will weigh it differently. Players are being evaluated at age 13, 14 and 15 then go away for two years and come back. Every team is looking at track record and history and past scouting reports. The caveat is that the international market makes the older info less valuable.”
Maitan is scheduled to play in Panama this winter, which will give front office officials to see him in game action. While pro scouts saw plenty of Maitan in 2017, not many GMs or special assistants to the GMs have seen him play in person in years.
Overall it makes Maitan a still very desirable prospect, but one who actually carries more causes for concern than he did when he was a 16-year-old.
When Maitan signed with the Braves, there was a pretty even split between scouts who believed he would be able to stick at shortstop and those who thought he would eventually get too big for the position.
A year and a half later, scouts are much more in agreement that he will not be a big league shortstop. Maitan’s lower half has thickened up significantly as he’s gone from the 185-pound amateur to a 210-pound 17-year-old. He has excellent hands and a shortstop’s arm, but he lacks the quickness and twitchiness teams look for at shortstop. He’s now seen as a future third baseman. And it's not that hard to find scouts who say they believe he could eventually end up at first base if he doesn’t stay on top of his conditioning.
At the plate, scouts who saw him in the Appalachian League or in instructional league were also less impressed with the bat than scouts who saw him as an amateur. He didn’t show as much bat speed as scouts expected, especially when he was hitting lefthanded. Even those who were not blown away were quick to also note that the Appalachian League was a very aggressive assignment for a 17-year-old. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may have dominated the league as a 17-year-old in 2016, but most of the top international signees (Miguel Sano, Gary Sanchez and Miguel Cabrera for example) begin their pro careers in the complex leagues.
All of this has to be weighed into any team's evaluation of the now free-agent infielder. There will be a robust market for Maitan, because teams rarely get a chance to land a 17-year-old international prospect like Maitan, but he’s not the same prospect he was when he was 15.