Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda had a successful season in 2016. Will the results hold up in 2017?
Kenta Maeda is fresh off an excellent rookie campaign with the Dodgers. Don’t put much stock into his early season struggles yet, as Maeda’s first year showed that he has the quality of stuff to stick in The Show. In the majors, he must command all of his pitches and use pin-point control to excel. Maeda lacks elite velocity, so any mistake over the plate is liable to be whacked with authority. That said, Maeda can be an excellent 3rd or 4th starter. Let’s take a look at his history.
Maeda’s Career in Japan
Kenta left very little to prove during his time in Japan. He was no stranger to awards, compiling five NBP All-Star appearances, three Best Nine awards (awarded to best player at each position), five Golden Gloves, and two Eiji Sawamura (CY Young equivalent) awards. He compiled a career W-L of 97-67 and a 2.39 ERA, along with 1,233 strikeouts while with the Hiroshima Carp. The superlatives do not end there, as Maeda also achieved the pitching triple crown in 2010.
Per Cot’s Baseball contracts, Maeda signed an 8-years, $25 million deal prior to the 2016 season. This can easily rate as one of the most team friendly deals in the history of the game. To gain control of an above-average player in his prime is hard, but to do it at the price the Dodgers are paying is rare. That said, the $25 million base salary is a bit misleading as Maeda can make up to $90 million based on incentives. What are those incentives?
Per Jeff Passan, Maeda gets $250 K for every 10 IP after 90 IP, up to 200 IP ($3 million). Also, Maeda gets a $1 million bonus for his 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th, and 32nd starts ($5 million total). Essentially, if Kenta is healthy, he will get these bonuses. In 2016, he reached 175 IP and 32 games started which netted roughly $10 million per Sportrac.
Career as a Dodger
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It is difficult to predict how well a pitcher will do when they make the transition from the NBP to the MLB. What is clear, though, is that Maeda proved that his results in Japan can carry over to the Dodgers. Maeda posted a 3.48 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.139 WHIP, and a HR/9 rate of 1. Those are solid numbers for a rookie in his debut season. Most importantly, Maeda was able to be the most reliable arm in the rotation by making 32 starts in a season plagued with injury.
One of the reasons for his success in 2016 was the ability to mix multiple solid offerings. He sports a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball. With his walk and strikeout rates, he displayed his ability to command these pitches while having swing and miss stuff. Maeda did not have a major home run problem last year, but he wasn’t necessarily elite in this category either.
What to Expect in 2017
If current results were used to forecast Maeda’s season in 2017, they wouldn’t be pretty. He has given up 11 ER in 14 IP, while maintaining good strikeout numbers (14 K’s on the season). It is too early to tell how Maeda will do, but assuming he is healthy, I think numbers similar to what he posted last year are reasonable.
In the offseason, There were reports that Maeda added nearly 10 lbs of muscle in the offseason. It was clear that after the All-Star Break Maeda was wearing down. By the time playoffs came around, he was clearly gassed. Hopefully Maeda is more acclimated to the MLB’s five-man rotation (he previously was on a six-man rotation). With a year under his belt in the MLB and added muscle, Maeda should improve on his already solid MLB debut.