This offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed talented Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda to a very team-friendly contract that puts the onus on him to perform well in order to get paid a hefty sum. That’s the type of deal that teams win with, simply because it’s a low-risk move. But there are some high-risk things to be concerned about with Maeda.
During the process to finalize a contact, it was learned that Maeda had some “irregularities” in his physical that could leave the Dodgers supremely concerned about his overall health and impact going forward. And that’s the thing to always remember.
The transition is hardly seamless (pun intended) as the weight of the baseball in Japan is different, as well as the amount of rest pitchers receive between starts. It is fair to be concerned that Maeda may suffer a similar fate to Masahiro Tanaka or the Dodgers’ own Hyun-Jin Ryu, and succumb to injury.
No two pitchers are alike, but there are similarities that can be drawn from the players before Maeda. The two listed, Tanaka and Ryu, suffered substantial injuries, and that’s the worrisome part about Maeda’s physical. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be good.
Maeda throws between 89-93 with his fastball, and features a really good slider, decent changeup, and the every-so-often curveball. The slider is his calling card. Maeda went 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 206.1 innings last season as a 27-year old in Japan.
The Dodgers are counting on Maeda to be an integral part of their rotation for both now and the future. The growing concern over the structural integrity of his elbow and such is going to be something the team will monitor, but it looks like he’s good to go for the year.