Saturday, December 5, 2015

Out In Front: Why The Giants Should Take A Shot at Kenta Maeda

He pitched in AT&T Park before in the WBC in 2013. Is there a chance that we'll watch him again on cream & orange home uniforms next year?
Foreword: Finally a blog post!

With Zack Greinke shocking the whole baseball world (including me) as he accepts the Diamondbacks' gargantuan contract offer pending physical, this looks like the time to move on from him and improve the rotation on another way. While some are thinking for the Giants to pursue Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija up to the point of even pursuing Johnny Cueto, I am thinking that the Giants should consider another direction, coming from the far east.

According to the news, Japanese ace Kenta Maeda is going to be posted this offseason by his team in the NPB. Maeda won the Sawamura Award (NPB's equivalent to Cy Young Award in MLB) in 2015, his second of his decorated career in Japan that I will further talk about later on. Teams who will pursue the right-hander are expected to pay the full posting fee of $20 million to acquire the right to negotiate a contract with Maeda (in which I think is a bad idea, I am more inclined to do a full contract negotiation then pay 35-50% of the contract value to the NPB team as the posting fee). 

A lot of teams that missed on the big ticket pitchers like Greinke and David Price are expected to join the bidding war for Maeda which brings us to this. The Giants have missed on the big ticket guys and should explore other ways to try to improve rotation depth. The Giants have been known to not pursue Japanese pitchers in the past.
Before I give the reasons why the Giants should pursue Maeda, here's my scouting report on him to help. (With the new category called risk with a rating from 1 as the lowest to 5 as the greatest.)

Kenta Maeda  RHP  
6'0" 175 lbs.
Videos: Credits to acekuroda (a great follow with regards to pitchers highlights) 1 & 2, MLB, and jouny con

When it comes to the sizes of the big 3 Japanese aces to come to the MLB, Yu Darvish is the large, Masahiro Tanaka is the medium and Maeda's the small size. Really small. He got a slight frame and his body's not entirely bulky. Instead, he got mature, lean and a flexible body that allows him to be agile on the mound, resulting to him to be great fielder for his position. Sort of like the flexibility that I saw on Tim Lincecum and fellow Japanese Koji Uehara.

He got the typical windup that Japanese pitchers commonly have (Darvish is not a typical Japanese pitcher) with his arms stretched vertically as he rock back on the mound and moves it down as he starts turning and heading towards the plate. He got a max-effort delivery on the mound with the similar front leg flick forward of Masahiro Tanaka that I found to be really effective in transferring potential energy to kinetic energy and allowing him to have a pretty lengthy stride. His right wrist is not bent inwards while separating and doing the scapular loading. As I have previously tried myself before, bending the throwing wrist inwards causes the elbow muscles to tighten and become painful than throwing regularly. (that could be the reason why Darvish and Tanaka have UCL issues right now). I'm not deeming his mechanics to be perfectly safe, as he got a chance to have shoulder issues moving forward (his drive is somewhat similar to Pedro Martinez). His arm is at the optimal position at his front foot landing and lands closed and delivers the ball on a 3/4 arm slot and follow through is sound and puts him in an excellent spot to field the ball seamlessly.

He got two solid fastballs, a four-seam fastball that hovers around 91-93 MPH and reaches 95 on occasion with true fastball action and a two-seamer around that averages around 89-92 MPH with sinking action with it. His slider is his best secondary pitch at around 86 MPH with solid, sharp break on it. He also got a changeup that can deceive hitters with good sinking movement at 82-85 MPH and a curveball that got inconsistent bite but an average pitch at 73-77 MPH. Even though he got no plus pitch, his MLB-caliber feel for pitching and sequencing, varying speeds, keeping hitters off balance couple with his great command of his pitches makes his seemingly ordinary pitches look very respectable. Couple that with his track record of success in Japan, there's no wonder teams will be taking a risk at the coveted right-hander.

Grades: FB 55 | SL 55 | CH 50+ | CB 50 | CMD 55+

Ceiling: #2-3 Starter   Floor: #3-4 Starter   ETA: Right now   Comp: Mike Leake    Risk: 3


As I have previously said, the Giants are not active players in terms of the Japanese pitching market ever since the explosion of Japanese talent arrived in America. But this offseason is unlike any other offseason. The Giants are looking at themselves in hot competition right now. The Dodgers have the talent to make it to the World Series every year with their unlimited spending and their elite farm system, the DBacks with the addition of an ace to compliment their dangerous lineup and good defense, the Padres might pose a threat while the Rockies will live in the bottom, scraping the earth in hope for quality pitching. In order to compete, Sabes, Bobby and co. needs to address the rotation. 

Here are the reasons why the Giants should take a shot on Maeda:

- He's a pitcher for starters. A good pitcher with an excellent track record on Japan. If you will open his stats when you click his name on the scouting report above, you'll see the excellent ERA, excellent walk rate and in 2015, he allowed just 5 HRs in 206.1 innings pitched in the regular season. He doesn't strike out a lot of guys with his K/9 never rose above 9, but he pitches to contact really well that coincidentally, is the Giants philosophy and will be a great fit at AT&T Park.

- His start last year vs. the formed MLB delegation held in Japan as a member of the national team was something not to be ignored. 5 shutout innings with 2 hits and 2 walks against Major League players is a glimpse of what he can become against real batters of the Show. A guy that decorated in his career as a pitcher is something that the Giants look for in terms of drafting with the best example of it is Christian Arroyo who's the banner guy right now.

- It's not just Darvish and Tanaka that are just the famous names in Japan that became good pitchers in the MLB. Wei-Yin Chen and Hisashi Iwakuma has also proven their worth against MLB pitching and Maeda should follow those footsteps as I feel that Maeda's better than Chen and Iwakuma. Maeda got more accolades with the same stuff.

- Posting system doesn't give up draft picks! If the Giants sign a guy who rejected a qualifying offer from their team before, the Giants will lose a first-round pick and as a prospect lover, I don't like the idea of giving up draft picks for a #3 starter especially when the upcoming draft class is better and deeper than last year. An example of that will be the Cubs signing John Lackey, losing their pick. Given that they have an elite farm system, they likely don't need the pick anyway. But for the Giants, a chance to get a possible top prospect for the price of a good starter is not worth. A guy that's been linked to the Giants is Samardzija that rejected the qualifying offer. If ever the Giants sign Shark, the Gigantes will lose the opportunity to add to the depth of the farm system for a guy who's been awful in his AL stint but is solid in NL. With Maeda, no draft pick will be lost if he signs. Better farm system, better pitching staff. Win-win situation.

With his pure talent, record of success and arriving at the Major Leagues in his prime (he's 27 years old), a lot of teams will take a shot at him, including the Yankees, the Cubs, the Tigers, the Cards, the Dodgers (not again), and the Red Sox. Other teams with deep pockets can take a shot at him as my projected price on him is to be on the 6-year range with the price range somewhere around $100 M (posting fee not included). The Giants might be the most attractive of them all with the recent championship runs, deep pockets this offseason, talented coaching staff, and the big chance to go for the World Series again is something that Maeda should think about other than the dollar signs on the contract. 

My dream scenario for the Giants right now is for Maeda to sign with the Giants, couple with the return of Mike Leake and the healthy Matt Cain and Jake Peavy plus Clayton Blackburn waiting on the cusp and Beede not that far behind, I'm feeling good about the Giants chances this offseason. Bobby, Sabes and the crew just needs to make action to solve the rotation as well as adding some OF help. With Maeda, the Giants can solve one of the problems and will be poised for another offseason move that will help the Giants live the even-year championship trend. Here's to hoping Maeda will be officially posted first.


  1. What up Wrenzie.

    Starting Pitching-Now that Greinke is signed.I think our focus should be Samardzija.I like his stuff and attitude.I think working with Rags and Posey will help his game.If we don't sign another arm.Trading for Shields would be a good fall back option.Having two innings eaters that love to compete,behind our ace is a good way to build a rotation.Another positive about Shields is his reputation as a hard worker,and his reputation working with young pitchers.We have a couple in our organization.Another possibility.It's a long shot.Maybe Samardzija,and Shields can help Crick.Samardzija has a football background like Crick.And,as I said earlier.Shields has a reputation of helping young pitchers.We'll see what Bobby Evans does.

    Outfield-I like the Zobrist idea.Good player.Fills three needs.LF,2B,1B.Panik( back),Belt(concussion),Blanco(concussion).We offered Greinke around $190.We can split that between Shark,and Zorbrist.I think we should take a shot at Cespedes if we can't land Zobrist.Highly unlikely though.

    Peace Wrenzie.

    1. Hello Mr. David! It's been a while.

      I do not hate Shark at all. He got a great fastball, good split and good slider. He's extremely athletic, and a competitor. He is just bit by the AL bug and bad defense by the White Sox. I think Rags will get his mojo back and make Shark a close to 3 ERA pitcher. A pitcher-friendly park and the great Giants defense will surely help too. I'm just not entirely sold on giving up the draft pick. This draft's going to be much better than next year. Believe me. There are guys that are ranked in the mid-1st round next year that you can put on the top-5 easily in 2015. And wasting a draft pick doesn't really help obviously. Here's to hoping Shark will put up great numbers while wearing a Giants uniform!

      About the OF, Alex Gordon comes to my mind. He didn't play entirely bad last year and if you can't beat em, join em.

  2. I just read today that they've evaluated him and aren't interested. To quote Shea (who broke the story):

    There are questions of whether Maeda’s success and durability in Japan would translate to the major leagues.

    1. That sucks. I'm being optimistic about the opportunity to have Maeda. In lieu with it, I'm still hoping the Giants address a short-term option as the number 3. Scott Kazmir comes to mind, I won't mind if Sabes bust out the budget and go all in on Cueto. Cueto looks really inconsistent on the time with the Royals (I have watched him pitch on TV) and all of that jiggling in that motion sets his mechanics off. If Rags can correct the mechanical mistakes, I think he'll be back to Reds Cueto.