The Angels made another big move Tuesday morning, scooping up highly-regarded prospect Kevin Maitan from international free agency.
Maitan, just 17 years old, struggled last season with a slash line of .241/.290/.340 in the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League. As his age suggests though, there is plenty of time for him to turn the corner and live up to the tremendous hype around him. He was a shortstop in the Braves system, until John Coppola was punished and suspended for breaking rules in international free agency. Maitan, along with 13 others, went back to the market. Many believe that the weight he gained may make him a better fit at third base, where the Angels don’t have much depth. Some major league comparisons given to Maitan when he signed with Atlanta include prolific slugger Miguel Cabrera, so his ceiling is very high.
One scout spoke highly of Maitan, saying, “The bat potential stood out…It’s a combination of being able to hit and hit for power with advanced feel for his age. The ease of play, the way he could hit balls with authority without a ton of effort, that’s really what stood out the most.”
Looking to the future, the Angels’ Outlook is much improved. Maitan joins 2016 first round pick, Jo Adell, OF Jahmai Jones, 1B Matt Thaiss, and RHP Griffin Canning among the top of their prospect list. The Halos system should get a bump up from their previous bottom-5 rankings, although they probably won’t crack the top-20 at this point. While Maitan had a fairly below average season, many scouts love his potential and tools, that they hope reaches the MLB level.
One very important thing to note is how and when the money was spent. The Angels spent $2.2M of their international pool money on Maitan, but not for this year. The money they are using is from the 2018-2019 stretch, making their pursuit of “Japanese Babe Ruth,” Shohei Ohtani still possible. The Angels have made it clear that they are in on the hitter and pitcher, with the $1.31M they have for this season. Most of the money being used for the pursuit of Ohtani was acquired along with RHP Jim Johnson in a trade with the Atlanta Braves. Ohtani has gone on record, saying that he prefers the fit and destination rather than money, and the Halos made the cut for the final 7 teams in pursuit of him. The major selling points will likely be the ability to play alongside Mike Trout, and the plan to let him hit and pitch, possibly moving Albert Pujols to first base.
The Angels have struggled building up their farm system and contending, but this move gives them the luxury of a top prospect. If they ever trade Mike Trout, his return coupled with the Angels current top prospects could form a formidable group.
That’s just speculation, so if you’re an Angels fan, calm down. It’ll be okay. He’s signed until 2020.
This is an important and surprising move for the Angels, who always seem to attempt for the playoffs despite shortcomings on their roster. This shows their continued faith in the team’s duality. While they bolster their major league group, they don’t sacrifice their minor leaguers. If Maitan pans out at third base for the Angels, they have a huge future piece in place. Billy Eppler has done an excellent job in keeping both levels on mind, cleaning up the mess of the early 2010’s Angels. He also has an eye for developing players, so Maitan seems like a good fit. He was able to unearth the potential of Andrelton Simmons and Blake Parker, for example. It’ll be important for them to take their time with the 17-year old, as he is still harnessing his abilities.
The hot stove is finally earning the name, and I am ready for the winter meetings.
(Image via baseballamerica.com)