FanGraphs Projects Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda

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Jan 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Kent Maeda (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman react at a press conference to announce the signing of the Japanese pitcher to an eight-year contract at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Kent Maeda (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman react at a press conference to announce the signing of the Japanese pitcher to an eight-year contract at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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You’re all probably sick of hearing about FanGraph projections, but they just released their projections for Dodgers’ pitcher Kenta Maeda.

The Dodgers lost their co-ace in the offseason, as they bet on depth over starpower in the rotation. Losing Zack Greinke hurts for a number of reasons, but the Dodgers are betting that their rotation depth will be better than it was last year.

Whether or not you agree with that, it’s clear that the Dodgers have a number of quality starters in the rotation. It starts with Clayton Kershaw, but Scott Kazmir, Hyun-jin Ryu, Alex Wood and Brett Anderson have all had seasons worthy of number two starter status. Mike Bolsinger was a godsend for most of last season, and Brandon McCarthy will likely be back around the all-star break.

The Dodgers made their biggest free-agent signing in the foreign market, when they signed Kenta Maeda. That was a whirlwind of a deal, going from OH MY GOD EIGHT YEARS to WAIT $25 MILLION TOTAL?. In the end, the Dodgers signed Maeda to an eight year deal worth $25 million in guaranteed money, with innings/starts incentives that can push the total value to almost $100 million.

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The relative bargain of his contract came with a caveat, as many teams were scared away by the physical that he took in Japan. The specifics weren’t released, but Maeda acknowledged irregularities in his physical at his introductory press conference. For what it’s worth, Maeda only pitched fewer than 175 innings once in eight seasons in the Japanese Central League, and topped 200 innings four times, including in 2015.

FanGraphs, a site that is extremely high on the Dodgers and their pitching staff, broke down their projections for Maeda, along with Byung-ho Park (Twins) and Hyeon-soo Kim (Orioles). Here’s their post on it.

Maeda’s projected statline isn’t too flashy and it won’t make anyone completely forget about Grienke, but it absolutely gets the job done. His exceptional command led to FanGraphs comparing him to former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda and almost former Dodger Hisashi Iwakuma, both of whom have made solid careers as number two/three starters.

Maeda was primarily seen as a back-end option, but potential improvements to his offspeed stuff could make him a more-middle of the order type of arm.

The most promising part of the article, to me, was the player comps for Maeda. He drew statistical comparisons to John Lackey, Jose Quintana and Wei-Yin Chen. That’s three pitchers in different parts of their careers, but Quintana is a pretty hot commodity in Chicago, Lackey has been key parts of postseason runs and Chen just signed a five-year, $80 million dollar deal in Miami (that he’ll likely opt out of).

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These Maeda projections seem pretty solid and should have Dodger fans excited. Maeda bet on his arm by signing for such little guaranteed money, so it’s going to be extremely easy to root for the guy for the next eight years. He provides the Dodgers with a right-handed starter that they didn’t have for a while and if he stays healthy, should give the Dodgers solid value over the next eight years. Nobody thinks he’s going to be the next Greinke, but he doesn’t have to be. A rotation of Kershaw and like six number two starters should be better than a rotation where Bolsinger (21) and Carlos Frias (13) make the fourth and fifth most starts on the team.

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