When the Los Angeles Dodgers brought over Japanese pitching import Kenta Maeda for the 2016 season, the book on the veteran hurler was that he has uncanny control but only decent strikeout stuff. While Maeda showed his incredible knack for keeping runners off base via the walk, the real shocker was that he opened up the year striking out a high number of batters and would keep up that rate for almost the entirety of 2016. For the season, Maeda struck out 179 batters in 175.2 innings, while complementing that tremendous ratio with a 3.48 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Maeda did tire in the second half as expected given the innings jump from his Japanese seasons but again those who took a shot here in last year’s draft had to be pleased with what they got back. Unfortunately as we look toward 2017 fantasy baseball, Maeda comes as a bit more risky this season. The biggest problem is that Maeda carries quite a sizable injury risk after an MRI on his elbow showed some abnormalities that often lead to Tommy John surgery. This is always the biggest issue with Japanese pitchers coming to the States as the very high and somewhat reckless usage of these arms lead to elbow/shoulder trouble before too long. We have already see both Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka succumb to Tommy John elbow surgery and it seems like Maeda is heading toward that same path. Thus is you are interested in investing in Maeds for this season, you must factor this into what you are willing to spend on him. Also count on opposing hitters adjusting more to Maeda this season now that they have had a full offseason to go to town on his tendencies. Finally, Maeda count very well “bounce” when it comes to the potency of his arm and numbers coming off his first full MLB campaign. This is a situation we often see with young pitchers who jump up in innings and also with international imports like Maeda. So when you combine all of this together, it is easy to see how risky Maeda is. As a result, you may want to avoid potential trouble here unless you can get Maeda for a low-end SP 3 this season.
2017 PROJECTION: 12-7 3.67 ERA 1.15 WHIP 173 K