According to Ben Badler at Baseball America, there may be another Japanese pitcher added to the pool of available players this winter once (if?) the new MLB/NBP posting system is finalized. Andrew Stoeten at DJF was the first to connect this development to the Toronto Blue Jays after Badler shared this morning that “teams have been keeping a close eye on whether Hiroshima Carp righthander Kenta Maeda will become available through the posting system this year.” Maeda has apparently thrown fire on the flames by voicing his desire to play in MLB.
Baseball America ranked Maeda number seven on their list of WBC prospects not affiliated with a MLB team. He’s not considered on the elite level of Masahiro Tanaka or Texas Rangers‘ ace Yu Darvish but Badler’s article had the following to say about Maeda.
Compared to Tanaka, Maeda doesn’t throw as hard or have a devastating out pitch like Tanaka’s splitter, but he is the No. 2 pitcher in Japan and would go immediately to the majors if posted. This past season, Maeda led Japan’s Central League in ERA and ranked second in strikeouts, posting a 2.10 ERA in 175 2/3 innings with 158 strikeouts (8.1 K/9) and 40 walks (2.0 BB/9). In 2010, Maeda won the Sawamura Award, Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young.
Maeda is a slightly-built 6 feet, 160 pounds and throws around 87-93 mph with good sink and run, though he doesn’t get great angle on his fastball. He’s a good athlete, which helps him repeat his delivery and thrive when his command, which can be plus at times, is on point. Maeda doesn’t have one knockout secondary pitch, but he has a solid-average slider and mixes in a curveball and a changeup as well.
“I liked Maeda” said a second international director. “He could be a fourth starter at the big league level. I really like his command and he has a good slider. He doesn’t have much plane, he really has to hit his spots, but he has good stuff. It’s not overpowering stuff, but he’ll keep you in games.”
Based on these reports, it doesn’t sound like he has the top of the rotation stuff that the Blue Jays so desperately need this off-season. However elite pitching comes at a premium and if the price on Tanaka becomes too high the Jays may become further intrigued in Maeda. It’s still not certain either player will be made available even if a posting agreement is finalized but gives at least a glimmer of hope there could be an additional option for the Blue Jays to possibly upgrade their rotation prior to 2014.
It’s hard to read too much into Japanese stat lines and I admit I don’t know much about Maeda so how about we just watch him throw some pitches?
Video courtesy of ramjam51.