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Braves July 2 International Free Agency Signing Period: Everything you need to know

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Here is a quick primer on the IFA/J2 season and what it means for the Atlanta Braves

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Atlanta Braves
A bunch of new players are about to where this hat...figuratively anyways
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After the draft, the most exciting time for prospect watchers and avid fans has to the beginning of the international free agency signing period (sometimes affectionately known as J2). For those of you who don’t know how it works, first things first. Take everything you know about the draft and throw it out the window. The J2 signing period is the wild west with weird rules, somewhat sketchy dealings, and bidding wars a-plenty.

This particular signing period has garnered a LOT of attention amongst pundits and fans alike due to both the fact the Braves are widely expected to blow way past their bonus pool and sign a bunch of players (more on that in a minute) as well as the long rumored handshake agreement with the top international prospect Kevin Maitan (more on him in a bit, too).

International Bonus Pools: What are they and why do they matter?

Teams are allocated bonus pools similar to the way they are with the MLB draft although the amounts are typically lower, especially at the top end. Case in point: the Phillies have the highest international bonus pool this year with a little over $5.6 million. The Braves have $4.766 million for referencing’s sake, the third largest international bonus pool as of right now. The pool amounts are based on a slot system and those slots ARE basically you can make trades to get more bonus pool monies which is exactly what the Braves did last year.

Why were they so set on not going over their bonus pool last year? Because by all accounts, THIS is the year to go over your J2 bonus pool. The combination of many of the big spenders being in the penalty including the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, etc. in conjunction with the fact that the current IFA system and its penalties are likely not going to be in place after the next collective bargaining agreement (which will be in place for the next J2 season and could very well be an international draft) means if you are going to go big, this is the year.

So what are the penalties? It depends on how far you go over...but first, any amount you go over is taxed 100%. If you go 5% to 10% over, you can’t sign players for more than 500K during the next signing period. Go over 10% to 15%, your limit is 300K per player during the next season. If you go more than that? You have a cap on 300K per player for the NEXT 2 SIGNING PERIODS. This is where the Braves will be after this signing period as they could easily spend upward of $40 million if some reports are to be believed.

Oh, and if you try to cheat the system while under the above restrictions, MLB will do bad things to you and your signees’ contracts. But again, this system is likely not to be in place after this offseason so we won’t dwell too much longer here.

So who are the Braves signing?

There are going to be a TON of players signed, many of which will not be heralded signees and who could end up being good players. We are talking about 16 year olds that will not see their first official games of pro ball until 2017. However, there are certainly some names to look out for this July 2.

First, there is Kevin Maitan. Despite some last minute pushes from some other teams, it appears, according to most folks in the know, that the Braves are going to sign Maitan for somewhere around $4.7 million, which is basically their entire bonus pool all on one players. It will be a record for a player out of Venezuela and he is more than deserving. He is the top prospect in the class with the chance to be a perennial All-Star with a potential plus bat, arm, and power. No one this young is a sure thing, but most scouts say that they have a hard time thinking he won’t end up at least being a good player. I wrote more about him earlier this year if you want to dig in more.

As for the other players, well...we know that, including Maitain, 6 of the 25 international prospects based on MLB Pipeline’s rankings are expected to sign with the Braves. Those players are catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, SS Yunior Severino, 3B Yenci Pena, 2B/SS Livan Soto, and RHP Juan Contreras. All are highly regarded, although its worth noting that they are all ranked in the teens to 20’s other than Maitan, but getting that many players is quite the haul.

Another player that the Braves seem to be heavily in on is Yefri Del Rosario, a RHP out of the Dominican Republic. He may have some of the best stuff in the class as of now, but his delivery and inconsistency at some showings make it unclear as to whether he ends up as a starter or a reliever. A Top 30 prospect for Baseball America, he will be a name to watch to see if the Braves can sign him.

One name that you will likely not see in a Braves uniform: Lazarito. Despite having some eye popping raw potential, it appears as though the Athletics are going to sign him...although I wouldn’t put anything past the Padres at this point as they seem wiling to throw money at anyone with a bat or glove at this point.

More J2/IFA Resources

At the end of the day, there will be less fanfare for the start of the J2 period than the draft and with good reason. Not everyone signs at the beginning, teams continue to acquire pool money if they don’t want to go over, negotiations take time, etc. However, its a very exciting time especially for a rebuilding club like the Braves, so here are some resources for those that want to full immerse yourselves in the IFA/J2 experience.

MLB Pipeline’s Top International Prospects

Baseball America’s International Signing Period Coverage

Fangraph’s July 2 Sortable IFA/J2 Prospect Board

So without further adieu, its the 2016 IFA signing period....enjoy as the Braves usher in a whole new wave of talent into their farm system.