Well it seems as though things are starting to pick up again in free agency as the Dodgers inked Japanese star pitcher, Kenta Maeda, today on the heels of acquiring Scottt Kazmir only a day ago.
With Maeda in the mix the Dodgers have turned an area of question, the starting rotation, into a surprisingly deep position for their team. Maeda will surely be slotted in amongst the starting five, so it will remain to be seen what happens with the likes of Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy next season, but it is a good problem to have.
From a fantasy perspective on Maeda, I wrote a fantasy outlook on him heading into next season about a month ago and nothing has changed on my opinion that Maeda should be able to transition to the MLB and have success in 2016. While he may not have the overpowering stuff that his predecessors had at their advantage, Maeda is every bit of polished as they were when they made the move.
Over his career Maeda has posted right around a solid 7.5 SO/9 and has averaged 1.8 BB/9. Both ratios are favorable and fantasy friendly. While Maeda tops out around 94 mph with his fastball, one of the biggest improvements he has made is his changeup. I am optimistic that he has begun to already incorporate another pitch in his arsenal, and a pitch that seems to vital nowadays to get hitters out.
The biggest offset of him not being a flamethrower, is his impeccable command. For me, this is why I hold that his transition will not be as bad as some scouts have stated thanks to his “lack of stuff”. We have seen time and time again that there all kinds of ways to get hitters out and fantasy owners will take outs no matter how they come.
With his K upside being capped some, he does not need to be targeted as aggressively as Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish were. This is not to decrease Maeda’s value next season, but just a reminder not to get caught up chasing him as the next big Japanese import in baseball next season.
In my previous piece, I compared Maeda to a younger Hiroki Kuroda and I think that still serves as a solid base comparison for owners at drafts next season. Kuroda was solid and a very capable backend fantasy arm for his whole career, and I think that Maeda right now shows to have that kind of skillset and even the chance at being more.
Value Maeda as a SP4 or SP5 next season, this limits expectations, but offers great return on investment if you can snag him later in drafts as other owners chase the flashier big time K fliers. Maeda will have success next season in fantasy and real life, so do not forget about him on draft day and feel comfortable with him being one of the stabilizers of your rotation.
2016 Early Projection: 13 W/3.50 ERA/120 K/1.15 WHIP