The Dodgers were roundly criticized for not retaining Zack Greinke this offseason — the national media, the fan base, etc., all had its opinion heard, loudly.
But, it seems the Dodgers have a Greinke replacement, if you believe what Yasmani Grandal said. From Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“‘He’s a four-pitch guy. You don’t get too many of those guys here. So for me, it’s going to be fun to work with him, getting creative back there and knowing what we can do. Which is one of the things I liked about Greinke last year.’
Grandal stopped short of describing Maeda as a one-person antidote for Greinke’s departure. But he referenced Maeda’s lengthy history in Japan and the recent success of other transplants from Nippon Professional Baseball. The Dodgers demonstrated similar faith in Maeda when they signed him to an eight-year contract.”
And this from J.P. Hoornstra of the L.A. Daily News:
“Maeda hadn’t thrown a pitch to a major league hitter before Monday, but he’s already shown the ability to add velocity on fastballs up in the zone. Grandal guessed that Maeda topped out at 94 or 95 miles per hour, while his low fastballs might have been closer to 92 mph.
Combined with Maeda’s curveball, changeup and slider, ‘it’s going to be the same’ as catching Greinke, Grandal said.”
This is as close to someone saying Kenta Maeda = Zack Greinke, but we all know that isn’t the case. Maeda, whose absolute ceiling is a No. 3 starter, is not a 1-to-1 comp for Greinke. And Grandal didn’t mean it that way, but it came across as a bit hyperbolic. Hyperbole is king at spring training, and this situation is no different.
If that fastball velocity is accurate, then maybe he’s a little more Greinke-like than expected — or at least a chance to be more Greinke-like. Odds are, Grandal’s assumption was a bit optimistic, seeing as Maeda was more of an 88-92 MPH guy in Japan.
Now, that isn’t to say what Maeda showed on Monday wasn’t impressive and something for folks to be excited about — especially the guy who is probably going to catch most of his starts. Chase Utley and Howie Kendrick were both quoted as being impressed with the life on Maeda’s fastball, so maybe there’s something more there. Then again, the term “small sample size” applies here. We’ll see what happens.
Aside from David Price, there was no pitcher available in free agency who could replace Greinke. Maeda isn’t Greinke. We know that. But he projects to be a solid starting pitcher on a team full of solid starting pitchers — and the best one on the planet in Clayton Kershaw.