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Out of Ohtani sweepstakes, Yankees should turn attention to former Braves prospects

The New York Yankees are reportedly out of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. Reports have the Japanese free agent looking at smaller markets on the West Coast. Hence, this leaves the Yankees with $3.5 million in international free agent bonus pool money.

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Which of course leads us to where the money could be spent next. Recently the Atlanta Braves were stripped of 13 prospects for circumventing international signing rules from 2015-17. Their former general manager John Coppolella was banned from MLB for life.

All 13 are able to keep their bonuses from the Braves. Couple this with the Yankees and their bonus pool money and there’s plenty of intrigues and opportunity to add to the farm system.

The free agents include Venezuelan infielder Kevin Maitan, Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, Venezuelan shortstop Livan Soto, Venezuelan outfielder Antonio Sucre, Dominican shortstops Yunior Severino, Yenci Pena, Angel Rojas, and Robert Puason, Dominican right-handed pitchers Juan Contreras and Yefri del Rosario, Dominican outfielder Brandol Mezquita, Colombian right-handed pitcher Guillermo Zuniga and South Korean shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae.

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Among the 2016 international free agent prospects, Baseball America ranked Maitan No. 1, Severino No. 8, Gutierrez No. 15 and Contreras No. 41.

Maitan is said to have a ceiling of Miguel Cabrera. Baseball America rated him higher than Gleyber Torres when he signed at 16 and note him to be the best young international free agent sign since Miguel Sano in 2009. Scouts peg him as a power guy capable of hitting in the 20-25 home run range but his size and lack of speed may eventually necessitate a shift to third base. The 17-year-old shortstop is a switch-hitter, who between 42 games and two stops with the rookie ball GCL Braves and Danville Braves, batted .241 with two home runs, 18-RBI, and a .629 OPS.

Severino is also a switch-hitting shortstop and Baseball America has him pegged as a 20-25 home run talent as well. The one question mark scouts have surrounding Severino is his range, which necessitates a move to second base eventually. Playing mostly second base last season at age 17, between the Dominican Summer League Braves and GCL Braves, Severino in 58 games batted .270 with three home runs, 29-RBI and a .766 OPS.

The 17-year-0ld Gutierrez caught for Venezuela’s 15 and under World Cup team. Scouts say the catcher is athletic with an accurate arm, has solid receiver skills, soft hands and controls the game. Gutierrez is being pegged as a line drive hitter with gap to gap power. Former FanGraphs analyst Kiley McDaniel initially compared his bat to Mike Piazza. In 35 games with the GCL Braves, Gutierrez hit .264 with one home run, 12-RBI, and a .676 OPS.

Contreras is being pegged as a power pitcher, tall and lean with a plus fastball. Scouts say his slider could eventually be his best pitch and he’s attempting to hone a changeup. Contreras is also said to have a fearless demeanor and isn’t afraid to challenge hitters, much like current Yankees ace Luis Severino. Depening on how his secondary pitches come along, scouts say his stuff could still translate to the bullpen.

The aforementioned players can sign elsewhere as free agents, between Dec. 5 and Jan. 15; they cannot sign with an additional signing bonus after that period. Atlanta would only be able to attempt to re-sign their former players on May 1. Teams can also draw money from their 2018-19 bonus pools but can’t combine with their current pool money.

Depending on which way the Yankees want to go, they could make a big splash signing or instead of throwing all of their bonus pool money at one player, as they likely would have with Ohtani, they can divvy up the cash on a few of those players mentioned above.

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