Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda will make his major league debut this evening against the San Diego Padres. What can we expect from the former star starting pitcher for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp?
First, from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Kenta Maeda, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-0 WT: 160 DOB: April 11, 1988
The Dodgers signed Maeda out of Japan with an eight year contract, potentially a bargain at just $25,000,000. His fastball isn’t especially fast in the 88-92 range, but he mixes it with a full arsenal of secondary pitches including a slider (generally seen as plus), a curve, and a change-up. His command is quite sharp and he’ll mix and match different fastball grips to do different things. Although lacking the velocity of a classic ace, his pitchability and mound feel are highly regarded and he should be a solid number four starter at least, perhaps more. Grade B-.
That was my initial take on Maeda, the comment written before spring training began. Maeda looked great in the spring, posting a 2.35 ERA in 23 innings with a 20/5 K/BB. Based on the numbers and spring reports, I raised his grade significantly last week, moving him from the pre-spring Grade B- up to a Grade B+ on the Top 175 prospects list.
Maeda's fastball velocity is generally right around 90, not a blazer, but he commands it well. The slider, curve, and circle change-up reported in Japan were all present this spring and the entire arsenal plays up due to his impressive feel for pitching. Again, this wasn't unexpected but his ability to execute his game plan against big league hitters has exceeded hopes.
We'll have to see if that remains true over the long season but barring an injury I think there is every reason to be optimistic.