On Tuesday morning, as he was in the thick of the fevered and frenzied pursuit of Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, Billy Eppler showed all of us Angels fans that he is not only equipped with a laser-like focus when it comes to players he covets, but that he’s also able to put that focus on more than one target at a time; he also reminded us Angels fans why we are enamored with him and his current office of the GM, and why we fully trust that he’s got the Halos headed in the right direction after some painfully rocky years.
It was that morning when word broke that the Angels had acquired 17-year-old phenom Kevin Maitan, formely of the Atlanta Braves’ farm system, who had recently been put on the market thanks to some sketchy and scandalous dealings from Atlanta’s international scouting department.
Out of all the Braves prospects that had suddenly found their services up for grabs, Maitan was the most promising and the most intriguing, and Billy Eppler had not only nabbed Maitan for $2.2 million, but he had done so without having to touch the international bonus money that they’d set aside for making a run at Ohtani.
It was, by all accounts, a coup on the part of the Angels’ front office. Well, ALMOST all accounts. As some baseball writers were extolling Maitan’s ultimate badassery and radness, or even going so far as to say he had immediately become the Halos’ #1 prospect, there were also those who gladly picked up the role of the naysayer. There is ALWAYS a naysayer, am I right?
So what was the rub? If you saw/read some fans or talking heads doing their best to temper expectations or get the point across that Maitan isn’t the no-doubter stud that many thought he was in his amateur days, then you probably saw/read their remarks on Maitan gaining weight, growing out of his shortstop (or even 3B) frame, losing some hitting skills or having a dismal showing in his first Appalachian League stint.
Those are valid criticisms, for sure, but just like those same party poopers would make it their duty to report that all of the glowing blurbs or articles about Maitan were outdated and didn’t reflect where he’s at right now as a player, I feel it is my duty to report that, while they did make valid points, there is really no reason for the hype on Kevin Maitan to be dampened or soured at all. In fact, I’m here to get that hype train back on the rails and chugging along at breakneck speeds, because the rumors of Maitan’s setbacks have been greatly exaggerated.
“He gained weight! 30 lbs! Pfffffffffffffffft. PASS!”
If you heard someone say any version of the above critique, then you should tell them to chill out a bit, because Maitan DID put on some lbs when he first came stateside, but he’s since evened out a bit. If they scoff at you or seem to still think this 17-year-old has a weight problem, then don’t worry, because the Izturis brothers have you covered.
MLB vet Cesar Izturis and his brother, former Angels fan favorite Maicer Izturis, have a baseball program back in Venezuela called Izturis Academia de Beisbol, where they instruct many young MLB hopefuls, and guess who’s been down there with them getting some instruction this winter? Yep, Kevin Maitan.
In fact, their Instagram feed had a picture go up a day or two before the Maitan signing news broke showing Angels international scouting director Carlos Gomez hanging out with Maicer, most likely talking about how amazing Maitan is going to be in a few years.
El scout de los Angelinos de Anaheim, Carlos Gómez, junto a Maicer Izturis. #césar #césarizturis #maicer #maicerizturis #pelota #prospecto #mlb #béisbol #baseball #barquisimeto #cabudare #carora #lara @ale2278 @marcopernalete @kturka17 @orozcopedro12 @diego_armando_24 @julioizturis7 @gilcubiro @rosports34 @oskar3089 @elaleyayo
If Maicer Izturis thinks Maitan is legit, and is also giving him pointers and instruction, then that just makes me even more of a believer. Of course, nothing made me more stoked to spread the gospel of Maitan than some of the pictures they posted of the kid himself.
Do you see an overweight 17-year-old in these pics? I sure as hell don’t. I see a dude that I would probably be polite as possible towards out of fear he would pick me up off the ground and drop me on my head. That ain’t a 17-year-old kid...that’s a man. Perhaps he was way beefier at one point, but the fact is right now he’s looking buff and bitchin’...and he’s 17 years old.
Let that sink in: This guy right here is 17.
Hey, even Luis Valbuena, purveyor of fine bat flips, was down at the Izturis academy and in this pic, I believe he’s thinking “WTF?! This is what 17-year-old prospects look like nowadays?!”
Maitan looks like a physical freak to me, and I can’t wait to see this guy after a few seasons with the Angels’ trainers and weight room at his disposal. He is going to be imposing at the plate. Now, speaking of Maitan at the plate...
“Dude, he was pretty bad in his first minor league assignment. Is this guy even a prospect any more?”
Yeah, he had some trouble during his recent time in rookie ball, hitting just .241 in 42 games, but it can’t be stressed enough that he’s as young as they come, not to mention he’s got the whole culture shock thing to contend with in his head. Some were smart to point out, though, that he DID show improvement, so it wasn’t all doom and gloom, not one bit.
#Angels Kevin Maitan splits in 2017 Appalachian League:— Taylor Blake Ward (@TaylorBlakeWard) December 6, 2017
- first 16 games: 69 PA, 4.3 BB%, 29.0 K%, .463 OPS
- last 16 games: 70 PA, 8.6 BB%, 27.1 K%, .733 OPS
*disclaimer - very small sample size*
Sure he's bad bodied, but give him a few years with professional trainers. You can't teach that power. Could be a nice buying opportunity right now— John Calvagno (@SALNotes) December 5, 2017
Scout who saw Kevin Maitan this year: "It was so easy for him. He was easily going opposite field. He hit and hit for power when I saw him."— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) December 5, 2017
Was there a bit of a letdown with Maitan in his rookie ball debut? Sure. Did he gain a bunch of weight in his first few months in America? Yep. Do either of those points really matter, when you’re talking about a high school-aged, uber-talented prospect who now looks like he’s a couple gym seshes away from being a chiseled beast, and whose raw ability with the bat has people like Jim Callis thinking he’s a baseball god in the making? No. No they do not.
Kevin Maitan had a couple blemishes right out of the gate, and that’s fine by me, because that may have been enough to make other, less-savvy front offices back off of him, but not Billy Eppler. Eppler and Gomez see the real deal in this dude, and I’m a believer. The fuse has been lit, and if all goes according to plan, the MLB is going to see this Maitan bomb explode in a big, big way.