Japanese starter Kenta Maeda was a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers last year. Maeda had to replace Zack Greinke and he pitched very well, so MLB betting markets reflect high expectations for his second season in the majors.
The Dodgers got plenty of criticism last year when they let Zack Greinke join the Diamondbacks and then many experts and fans questioned them even more when they took a risk and signed Japanese rookie Kenta Maeda to an eight-year, $25 million incentive-laden contract up to $106.2 million in total. Even with the incentives the deal is a bargain because he can earn $13 million a year at most, and considering how he performed in 2016, it is worth it.
Maeda made $10,375,000 last season and he posted a 16-11 record with a 3.48 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 179 strikeouts in 175.2 innings of work over 32 starts. It's safe to say that the Dodgers made a great investment because he led the team in games started, innings pitched and strikeouts, becoming arguably their most dependable pitcher.
Out of those 32 starts, Maeda received more than four days of rest in 19 of them though, as the Dodgers tried to follow a schedule similar to the ones used in Japan, as Japanese starters need more time to adjust to pitching in the United States because the workload is completely different. Maeda has reached over 200 innings before but it's harder to do it in the majors. What matters is that he is willing to do what it takes to reach that mark and the fact that he was never on the disabled list despite arriving to the Dodgers with small elbow and shoulder issues is admirable.
Maeda has a slender frame and the weight of his workload seemed to take a toll on him as the season progressed. The right-hander had a 4.25 ERA after the All-Star break and he allowed eight runs in 10.2 innings in three postseason starts.
The Dodgers plan to return to a traditional 5-man starting rotation because Clayton Kershaw expects to be healthy for a full season and they prefer a consistent rotation with four days of rest for each starter. Now that Maeda is entering his second season in the majors, his health and his ability to pitch deep into games and produce will be very valuable and it will give him a chance to win at least 13 games. BetOnline set Maeda's season win total at 12.5 at -115 MLB odds for both the Over and the Under.
Maeda did some weight training in Japan during the offseason hoping to increase his stamina, which is the next step he has to take if he wants to become a workhorse. If he continues to try to make his body more durable and stronger he can be a really solid number two starter for years to come.