Illegal practices by the Atlanta Braves could play into the Phillies favor
Major League Baseball has announced that will remove several international prospects from the Atlanta Braves system, making them free agents the Phillies could snag. Atlanta was found guilty of using their international bonus pool money to sign multiple players, then moved that money around to boost other contracts.
Commissioner Rob Manfred handed out considerable penalties to the Braves including a lifetime ban of former GM and the removal of 13 prospects signed by the Braves. Among these prospects were Juan Contreras, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Peña, Yefri del Rosario, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.
The most notable prospect they lost was 17-year-old shortstop Kevin Maitan, the top talent in the 2016 international signing class. The Venezuelan projects as a five-tool player with 30-30 potential. He is a switch hitter and has drawn comparisons to Braves great Chipper Jones.
Maitan’s pro debut was severely underwhelming for the GCL and Danville Braves, mustering a .241 batting average over 176 plate appearance. He was just a teenager so emphasis will be put on what he does this year.
The question being how should the Phillies approach these free agents is plain and simple: sign Maitan. He is an elite talent and should be a fixture in any lineup. He plays short now but, most believe his future is at the hot corner.
This plays well for the Phillies since that is a position that is a question mark. Maikel Franco regressed severely this year putting his claim on the position at risk. Their 2016 3rd rounder Cole Stobbe has potential, but he doubled his strikeout total in just 11 more games last season. The other move would be letting JP Crawford play third, similar to what Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail did in Baltimore with Manny Machado.
Maitan could be ready as early as 2019 if he takes major steps forward. His bat is advanced for being just 17, so you could see a quick climb similar to Ronald Acuna, another Braves prospect who flew through the system.
This is a rare chance for the Phils to impact their already strong farm system. Whether it is Maitan or someone else, look for Klentak to aggressively pursue one of these prospects.