I was able to make my way up to Kissimmee yesterday to see the debut of Kevin Maitan at the first game of Fall Instructional League play for the Braves this year. I'm pretty sure you all know about Maitan by now but he was the #1 overall international prospect for the 2016 class and has been deemed "Venezuela's Next Great Prospect" by Baseball America and deemed the best international prospect to sign since Miguel Sano all the way back in 2009.
Many scouts stated that if he were eligible for last June's draft he would be a first round pick and a high one at that. It's not often you find a switch hitting six foot five 16 year old kid who can play shortstop and hit for power but the Braves did just that on July 2nd inking him to a $4.5 million dollar deal.
It being a road game, I wasn't 100 percent sure Maitan would travel or even play but on my way up I heard he was in the lineup and starting at short and may or may not have started driving a little bit faster. The game was against the Astros who are still using Osceola County Stadium for their Instructional League games until the Braves move in next year.
I had never been to the backfields here and came in the wrong way behind right field and to my surprise (and delight) saw Ian Anderson warming up out there. Not far from him were all of the position players warming up and there he was as big as any of the other guys including Juan Yepez and Braxton Davidson. I snapped a couple of quick photos and settled in near the Braves dugout as per usual for me at GCL and instructional games. Right before the game I asked him for a photo and I think it might be the first photo of him actually in a Braves uniform. I got a lineup card from one of the coaches and settled in to watch the first inning.
The Braves went down 1, 2, 3 in the top of the first and on came Ian Anderson, this was actually my first time catching him live and he really does make it look easy with a smooth, effortless delivery. His last start for Danville was on September 1st and you could tell with the way he was having trouble locating his pitches, walking 2 or 3 over his 2 innings. His stuff was there with the fastball sitting 92-94 and he had some nice break on the offspeed stuff but you could tell there was a little rust from not pitching in almost four weeks.
In the top of the 2nd Braxton Davidson lead off with a walk and up came Kevin Maitan. He did not look overmatched at all for a 16 year old taking his first professional at bat, fouling a few pitches off before eventually grounding out.
In the field he made a few solid plays, making all of them look easy - on a fly ball to shallow left he took charge over the much older Davidson in left and made a nice over the shoulder catch going back on the ball. He flashed the plus arm on a ball to his left that wasn't a routine ground ball but he made it look that way, easily throwing the runner out at first. He also started a 6-4-3 double play to end the 2nd inning.
In the 3rd inning Derian Cruz reached on a solid base hit, Cristian Pache hit into a fielder's choice and stole a base easily with Maitan at the plate. Maitan again grounded out in his first RBI chance. It was definitely nice to see Cruz, Pache, Davidson, Maitan, Cumberland 2-6 in the lineup even though neither team scored.
Jeremy Walker came in to pitch the 3rd inning in relief of Anderson who threw 2 scoreless innings, he's another tall righty with 4 pitches and worked a clean inning as thunder started to rumble in the background. Right as the final out of the 3rd was recorded a loud lightning strike hit nearby and they put the game into a 30-minute delay and eventually called it once rain rolled in which is unfortunate since Joey Wentz was warmed up and ready to pitch the 4th.
Brett Cumberland started at catcher and from his draft profile and scouting reports i'd come to assume he was very raw behind the plate. I didn't see him make any mistakes over 3 innings and seemed to work well with Anderson. Derian Cruz slid over from his normal SS position to 2nd base and looked just fine out there.
I only got to see 2 of his at bat's but I'd say all in all Kevin Maitan lived up to the hype. He's a a huge kid who makes every thing on the baseball field look easy. I've never seen a guy his size play shortstop that easily, I really do think he might have a shot to stick there. He seems to have settled right in with the team, I noticed he sat next to Juan Yepez most of the game a fellow Venezuelan.
I'm not sure how many Instructional League games I'll be able to make it to this month but I will definitely be back to Osceola County Stadium next year to watch the Braves new High-A club whatever crazy name they end up with.
Another one of the top international signings the Braves made in July - Yunior Severino who did not play yesterday.