The Next Elite July 2nd Prospect Is 14-Years-Old

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Internet in my years covering prospects, it’s that people are irrationally interested in the next big thing. A well-known former first rounder close to the big leagues moves the needle for fans, but the completely unknown flame-thrower that hits 100 mph in rookie ball gets almost the same amount of attention for some reason.

Part of this is the proliferation of ridiculously deep dynasty fantasy leagues, but I think, at a deeper level, humans like the “new shiny thing” aspect of learning something completely new. I think this explains why trade rumors often get more attention than breakdowns of actual trades.

I’m often asked way before July 2nd if that year’s international signing class of Latin 16-year-olds has a franchise type, once-a-decade player—Miguel Cabrera, Miguel Sano, Felix Hernandez, etc.—which is the question I often find myself asking scouts to open a discussion about the top players in the class. In short, there isn’t that player (yet) for next July 2nd, though I’ll get another look at many of the top players in the class next month. There are already rumors of a player in the upcoming class having a deal for $3 million, but multiple players get about that much every year, even with the new international pools in place, so that doesn’t automatically make him that super elite prospect.

However, there is a player for the 2016 July 2nd period, 22 months from now, that is drawing that kind of scouting attention. He’s 14 years old and he’s a Venezuelan shortstop named Kevin Maitan.

I won’t waste time breaking down the tools for a 14-year-old, though I should admit I have scouted Latin kids this young when trainers want to show me their best players for future July 2nd periods after I watch a workout for their best players in that year’s class. International scouts start paying real attention to prospects as early as 12 or 13. There are some things that aren’t natural for domestic scouts that you do when projecting kids that are this young, like projecting speed to improve as the kid physically matures, but the broad scouting indicators are often surprisingly accurate for projecting years into the future. Player like Bryce Harper, Eric Hosmer and Justin Upton were all noticed as early as 14 or 15 to be elite draft prospects and in a country where the kid is training for and scouts are scouting for his age-18 season.

You hear almost every star player from a Latin country eventually used as a comparison for a raw teenager, but international scouts generally don’t invoke Miguel Cabrera. That’s the Bo Jackson-type talent you don’t use to compare to teenagers. Even Vladimir Guerrero gets comp’d sometimes, though with Vlady’s son being in this year’s July 2nd crop and having similar mannerisms, that at least makes some sense.

Maitan has been compared to Cabrera by most of the scouts I’ve asked about him. He’s unusually physically mature for his age and flashes all the tools you want to see to throw that Cabrera comp around: he can play shortstop pretty well now, he’s got more raw power than most kids a few years older than him, he has smooth actions in defense and at the plate and so on.

Obviously, it’s still ridiculously early in the process to anoint a 14-year-old the next big thing, but scouts have already starting doing it, with rumors Maitan has already been offered seven figures by multiple clubs.  I won’t name the clubs that have been tied to him for a few reasons, but it’s still unclear if that matters, because MLB could still be aiming to institute an international draft for 2016.  If that happens, it would add another big benefit to having the worst record in the 2015 season.




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Kiley McDaniel has worked in the scouting departments of the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates and has written for ESPN, among other outlets. Follow him on twitter for real-time thoughts on the players he’s seeing and hacky attempts at humor.


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17 Comments on "The Next Elite July 2nd Prospect Is 14-Years-Old"


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Nick Mandarano
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Nick Mandarano
1 year 7 months ago

Seriously? Sickening, he’s a kid

Za
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Za
1 year 7 months ago

They all are.

Anon
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Anon
1 year 1 month ago

Sickening? Maybe from an envious point of view. I would have loved to be in a position to make millions at 14, but my eyes are terrible and I kind of suck at catching things.

Perpetually Cynical Mets Fan
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Perpetually Cynical Mets Fan
1 year 7 months ago

Are we sure this guy is actually 14? I feel like, whenever we see an “unusually physically mature for his age” kid from the developing world, he always ends up being older than claimed.

Tesseract
Guest
Tesseract
1 year 3 days ago

“Always ends up being older than claimed” is a broad term. Hundreds of players sign out of latin america every year and the go through with their contracts and the fortunates/talented ones make it all the way to the Major Leagues. Sure there have been some identity cases but MLB has been very thorough in recent years and the identity problems have decreased significantly. I believe it’s close to 1 per every 100 that has an identity issue. The problem is that the media blows it out of proportion and make it seem that is the norm rather than just an instance. In any case, this kid seems really talented and to jump to conclusions that he is older than expected this early is silly.

Los
Guest
Los
1 year 7 months ago

How many once a decade players can happen in a single decade?

Mix
Member
Member
Mix
1 year 7 months ago

Seven.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
1 year 7 months ago

0 36.8%
1 36.8%
2 18.4%
3 6.1%
4 1.5%
5 0.3%
6 0.1%
7+ 0.0%

Matthew
Member
Member
1 year 7 months ago

A 14 year old Latin American Shortstop?

I bet Jason Park’s first assignment for the Cubs was to go see this kid.

Jose
Guest
Jose
1 year 7 months ago

Stop with the International Draft thing, my nightmares are almost in control.

Joseph
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Joseph
1 year 7 months ago

Keep it in your pants Kiley.

Chris
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Chris
1 year 6 months ago

Does Rafael Devers have that type of “once-a-decade” talent? I’ve read great things about him but I’m curious if he has that type of upside.

tess
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tess
1 year 5 months ago

Kiley how many times have you been to Venezuela?

Voice of Reason
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Voice of Reason
1 year 5 months ago

Ok, lets put this into perspective, shall we????

At 14 years old, this kid is currently 5.5 years below the average age of rookie ball.

Giving him a projected rookie season in his age 24 season, we might not see this kid in the majors until 2024….he might not hit his prime until 2030!!! Thats 15 years!!!!!

Half the current league will be gone by the time this kid is in the show.

Mike Trout will be a grizzled veteran. Bryce Harper will be “old”.

Kris Bryant could be a 10 year veteran.

Giancarlo Stanton might be a free agent before this kid sees an All-Star game.

Goldsteins dumb fedora
Guest
Goldsteins dumb fedora
1 year 3 months ago

you realize this has been going on in soccer in Europe forever?

rob
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rob
1 year 1 month ago

Or he could have the talent to get to mlb at 20. Which means he is only 6 years away.

Bob
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Bob
1 year 3 months ago

right in time for the Phillies to be picking #1

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