The Minnesota Twins have made several additions to their pitching staff this offseason, and the defending AL Central Champions added yet another starter on Monday. Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda now heads to the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’, but what does he bring to the Twins? Let’s take a look at the new Twins right-handed pitcher.
New Twins Pitcher Kenta Maeda
Maeda had spent his entire MLB career with the Dodgers prior to this trade. Signed out of Japan by the Dodgers in 2016, Maeda spent four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and has made at least 20 starts in each of those seasons. The 31-year old now heads to Minnesota, as the Twins acquired him on Monday along with minor league catcher Jair Camargo in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, minor league outfielder Luke Raley and future considerations.
Kenta Maeda has a career record of 47-35 along with a 3.87 ERA. Across 589.0 career innings, Maeda has struck out 641 batters (9.79 K/9) and has walked 178 batters (2.72 BB/9). Last season with the Dodgers, Maeda went 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA, and posted a 1.07 WHIP. Those numbers may look pedestrian, but the analytics tell a bit of a different story.
Maeda does a fantastic job of inducing weak contact, as Maeda’s exit velocity (96th percentile according to Baseball Savant) and Hard Hit% (95th percentile) rates were both among the best in baseball last season. And out of Maeda’s four seasons in baseball, the 31-year old had Hard Hit% rates below 30% in three of them.
A good chunk of Maeda’s success in the Majors can be attributed to two pitches, his changeup and slider. Batters hit just .183 off the change in 2019 and .135 in 2018. Maeda’s change induced 113 whiffs in 2019, which was the 13th most out of all pitchers in 2019, and the pitch had a 36.2 Whiff% rate last season.
The change can be a great weapon against lefties, and you can say the same thing about his slider against right-handed hitters. Maeda can beat up on right-handed hitters with the breaking ball, as it has good movement and can be quite hard to pick up. And the slider certainly gave hitters a tough time in 2019, as batters hit just .158 off the pitch. In addition, 81 of his 169 strikeouts were courtesy of the slider. And just in case you’re wondering, Maeda’s Whiff% rate off the slider was 40.7%.
Maeda now brings his talents to Minnesota, where the Twins have built quite a powerful rotation.
Twins Rotation in 2020
The Twins rotation is shaping up to quite the formidable force in 2020. Jose Berrios (4.4 fWAR, 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 195 K in 200.1 IP) has established himself as an extremely effective starter, while Jake Odorizzi (4.3 fWAR and Michael Pineda (2.7 fWAR) return to Minnesota. The Twins may have lost Kyle Gibson to Texas, but Minnesota did also add two starters to replace him and Martin Perez. Homer Bailey (2.9 fWAR) heads to Minnesota in 2020, as will Rich Hill (0.9 fWAR). However, Hill will miss the early parts of 2020 due to modified Tommy John surgery.
With the additions that the Twins have made this past offseason, they’re certainly in good shape. However, the big question may not be whether the Twins can perform in the regular season, but whether Minnesota can put it together in the postseason. The Twins had a team ERA of 7.56 in the playoffs in 2019, and the Twins are hoping that with the additions of Bailey, Hill and Maeda can help get them over the hump.
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