July 2 Scouting Reports, Prospects 1-10

Yesterday, I published the scouting reports for the 11th- to 25th-best prospects available in the upcoming 2016-2017 International Free Agent Signing Period. Below are my reports for prospects 1 through 10. The full board, with tool grades, future value grades, velo ranges and more is here while my primer on the process is here.

1. Kevin Maitan, SS/3B, Venezuela (Video 1, 2, 3, 4)

Where to begin? How about at age 12? That’s when scouts started to identify Maitan as this class’s top overall player. By age 14, Maitan already had everything scouts are looking for in a baseball prospect. A picturesque build, good defensive actions at shortstop with plenty of arm for the position and not just usable but potentially impactful swings from both sides of the plate — as well as power projection to accompany it. The Braves have been all over Maitan for a few years and are expected to sign him for about $4 million.

I have a 55 FV on Maitan, the same future-value grade as Kiley McDaniel placed on Yadier Alvarez last year. But Alvarez was three years older than Maitan is now and risk/proximity to the majors factors in to future value. There’s a chance that Maitan develops a plus hit tool and plus raw power from both sides of the plate. His left-handed swing is of the traditional, low-ball variety and has a beautiful high finish. The bat is quick into the zone and long through it, producing gap-to-gap contact right now that should move toward and over outfield fences as Maitan matures.

From the right side, Maitan’s wrists are a little looser, his hands more surgical and his bat control more advanced. He looks more comfortable from this side right now but will get more reps in pro ball from the left side because most opposing pitchers will throw right-handed.

Defensively, I’ve had scouts put anything between a 55 to a 70 on Maitan’s arm. Grades on players like Maitan, who are locked into deals early, are often more volatile than they are on other players because, once they’ve agreed to deals, they show up at workouts and showcases less frequently. This is likely why grades on Maitan’s arm are so disparate and I’ve split the difference and assigned his arm a 60. His actions at short are solid and confident but there’s a chance he outgrows the position, slows down and has to move to third base. There are some evaluators, especially the ones highest on his arm strength, who think Maitan might remain at shortstop even if he does slow down because some of his other skills will hide a lack of range.

This is the best 16-year-old international free agent since Miguel Sano and he has a chance to be very special, especially if he can remain at shortstop.

2. Adrian Morejon, LHP, Cuba (Video)

Morejon is expected to get big money from San Diego. Scouts love him despite his lack of size and projectability because he still finds way to do the things that are useful traits of taller pitchers. Plus, his stuff is already so good that nobody cares that he lacks projection. Morejon is smooth and athletic, delivering a fastball that sits at 89-92 mph tops out at 94. Because of a high three-quarters slot, Morejon’s fastball features more downhill plane than most short pitchers and some horizontal movement as well.

The effortlessness and repeatability of Morejon’s delivery allow for above-average command projection and he’s already shown advanced use of his entire repertoire.

The two-plane breaking curveball is already above average and projects to plus. Morejon can already routinely throw it for strikes and loop it down toward the back foot of right-handed hitters for swings and misses. The changeup is behind but athletes with arm actions like this usually develop good ones.

I’m not particularly concerned about Morejon’s size. Yes, he is short but he has a solid build, a low-effort delivery and makes up for his lack of height with a vertical arm slot. His combination of size, athleticism and three-pitch mix is not unlike that of Kolby Allard’s during the early portion of his draft year.

3. Jorge Ona, OF, Cuba (Video 1, 2)

Ona was once a potential five-tool talent but his body has gone a bit backwards recently and he’s no longer the runner he was in Cuba. He still has plus raw power and big-time bat speed but scout opinions are divided on how much contact he’ll make. Some see electric hands, an all fields approach and bat control while others think there’s too much full-body effort in the swing to make consistent contact.

Ona has a plus arm which, combined with the plus raw power, gives him a traditional right-field profile. Most of his overall value will be dictated by how much contact he makes, but even if he’s a fringe-average hitter he could still rip out about 20 homers annually while playing above-average defense in right field and adding some value on the bases.

There’s a chance that, as with Yasiel Puig, Ona’s physique has sagged because he hasn’t been training in an optimal environment the way he will once he arrives in the United States. I think he has star potential but scouts’ opinions were too inconsistent to ignore and Ona dropped from #2 on my initial draft of this list to #3 because of it. He is expected to sign with the Padres.

4. Luis Almanzar, SS/3B, Dominican Republic (Video 1, 2)

Almanzar played at American Heritage Academy in Florida as a freshman in 2015 but moved back to his original home in the Dominican after just one year. Most prospects in this class have either a chance to (a) hit and hit for power or (b) play a premium defensive position. Almanzar has a chance to do both. He has the most aesthetically pleasing swing in the class with quiet but efficient footwork, above-average bat speed and a swing path indicative of both contact and power. He has shown power to all fields, though his swing can get a little long.

Almanzar’s body has matured quickly and, while he looked like a lock to stay at shortstop as a high-school freshman, he’s grown to the point where about three-quarters of the scouts to whom I spoke thought he’d end up moving to third base. Though his lateral range might be lacking, Almzanar has a plus arm, good footwork and clean infield actions and he might be an above-average to plus defender at third base should he eventually move there. The bat should profile there. The Padres are the favorites to sign Almanzar.

5. Jeisson Rosario, OF, Dominican Republic (Video)

Scouts are enamored with Rosario’s all around skillset and are as confident in his ability to hit as any of the other 16-year-olds in the class. He has a quick, short stroke, good hand-eye coordination and projects as an above-average hitter. This isn’t your typical power hitter’s build and Rosario projects only to have fringe to average raw power. He’s an average runner with a decent feel for center field but it’s doubtful that he remains there long term even if he begins his pro career there. Instead, Rosario projects as a hit-before-power right fielder with a good glove and plus arm. He is expected to sign with San Diego for $1.8 million.

6. Luis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic (Video)

Garcia has a pretty unique set of tools. He has average raw power but only to his pull side and the pop comes more from his innate ability to impact the baseball in just the right spot to create lift — rather than an uphill bat path, that is. It’s hard to tell if that skill will carry over into games. Garcia is twitchy and athletic and one of the class’s better runners. He has the arm strength, actions and range to play shortstop deep into his career.

Garcia’s body is polarizing. It’s immature and soft and some think it will continue to trend in that direction, sapping Garcia of the athletic parts of his game that make him special. Most scouts think the body will improve and think there’s a chance that all of Garcia’s tools will tick up as a result. He is expected to sign with Washington for about $1.25 million.

7. Cionel Perez, LHP, Cuba (Video)

About a third of the league is interested in Cionel Perez, who has yet to be cleared for free agency. He’s likely to command a bonus in excess of $5 million once he is cleared. Reports seem to justify that number. Perez is small, but he has crazy arm acceleration and he routinely sits 89-93 with his fastball while touching 95. He has feel for both a curveball and slider, the former of which is already flashing plus with big depth and late bite. He’s shown a 45 changeup as well, though he doesn’t consistently show the same electric arm speed of his fastball through release. The changeup also lacks consistent movement.

Perez is explosive and athletic despite his diminutive stature and stick-figure build. The delivery does feature some effort and Perez had some issues with strike-throwing as a teenager in Cuba’s Serie Nacional but most think he’ll throw enough strikes to start. He turned 20 in April and is under the same umbrella of representation as Lazarito (who was covered in yesterday’s post).

8. Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Cuba (Video 1, 2)

Gutierrez is the oldest pitcher on the list and has been in the U.S. and eligible to sign with a club for quite a while. His camp has been patiently fielding offers and having workouts every so often to show the industry where Gutierrez’s sometimes waxing and waning stuff is at. Gutierrez has shown a number of different deliveries to scouts over this time, a sign that he’s athletic enough to make adjustments when he’s asked but also an indication that he’s having a difficult time finding something with which he’s comfortable.

The stuff is very good. Gutierrez will touch 97 and has an above-average curveball. The changeup and command are not only both behind but especially hard to project: scouts never know what Gutierrez’s mechanical roulette wheel is going to spit out next. He turns 21 in September and the clock is ticking on the command and a third pitch, though the fastball/curveball combination will likely be enough for Gutierrez at least to make a big-league impact as a reliever.

9. Gabrial Arias, SS, Venezuela (Video)

Arias is a below-average runner but he has such mature and efficient defensive feel and such a strong arm that most scouts think he’ll remain at shortstop. He’ll probably have to remain there to have any kind of everyday value because Arias projects to have very little game power. His swing is simple but lacks whip and explosion. He might hit an empty .270 or so, but that only plays in a big-league lineup if he can remain at short. He’s expected to sign with San Diego.

10. Freudis Nova, 2B/SS, Dominican Republic (Video)

Nova had a deal with Miami for $2.5 million but the Marlins backed out after he tested positive for steroids early this year. He is now expected to sign with Houston. Nova has plus bat speed and a loft-heavy swing. He takes big, long hacks and tries to obliterate the baseball and projects to have plus raw power at maturity. His hands and defensive footwork are rough and that, combined with the way scouts anticipate his thick, physical frame to mature, make it unlikely that he remains at shortstop. He’s more likely to become a bat-first second baseman who strikes out a lot and hits majestic dingers, but nobody is sure how the PEDs might have aided in the power scouts saw during workouts.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Spa City
7 years ago

I hear the Phillies are the favourites to sign Kevin Maitan.

Apparently the Padres have some sort of inside deal to sign everybody else.

7 years ago
Reply to  Spa City

Well, none of that is true.

Spa City
7 years ago
Reply to  Spa City

Sorry. Bad (very bad) attempt at humour based on the comments of the “Free_AES” guy who used to submit frequent comments about the Phillies and Maitan.