Baseball is back and at Baseball America, that means it's time again to track the progress of prospects. We'll update you each day on how some of the game's most prominent prospects fared at spring training.
Kenta Maeda, the Japanese ace righthander who signed an eight-year, $25 million contract that was structured to protect the Dodgers from risk amid reports of some physical issues, was sharp in his U.S. spring debut Saturday.
Maeda, 27, who won his second Sawamura Award (the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young) in Nippon Professional Baseball in 2015, dispatched the Diamondbacks on 28 pitches in two innings, striking out two and allowing just a double by Phil Gosselin. According to reports, Maeda’s fastball reached 93 mph, in line with scouting reports.
One evaluator who watched Maeda said although the gun readings might look pedestrian, the eight-year NPB veteran can manipulate the ball and that his hand use and use of finger pressure is “special.”
At his best, Maeda has a fastball that sits at 89-93 mph and can touch 94, a tick above-average slider that he leans on heavily, along with a curveball and a changeup he will use to try to keep hitters off balance. Scouts projected him as a No. 4 starter, although he has detractors because of his size—he is listed a 6-foot, 161 pounds, but appears slighter.
“He was very efficient,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters. “Seeing the way they were swinging, some deception is there.”
Maeda said was pleased with his command.
“It was my first appearance in front of the fans and I wanted to make a good impression today,” he told reporters. “I want to continue what I did today and be even better next time around.
"I thought I was able to add and subtract with the velocity and I was able to command all my pitches today," Maeda said.
Nine newsmakers from Saturday's action.
- Jorge Mateo, ss; Aaron Judge, rf, Yankees: The Yankes’ No. 1 and No. 3 prospects respectively got a taste of the Red Sox rivalry and each homered—Judge hit a three-run blast—in a 6-4 win.
- Mac Williamson, lf, Giants: Williamson, who rebounded in 2015 after missing most of 2014 because of Tommy John surgery, continued to push for a big league role by belting two homers, including one off Cole Hamels.
- Phillip Ervin, of, Reds: Ervin, trying to rebound from an uneven 2015, pinch-hit for Rule 5 pick Jake Cave in the sixth against the Indians and homered against Drew Rucinski.
- Carson Fulmer, rhp, White Sox: The eighth overall pick last June, Fulmer won’t move as quick as 2014 first-rounder Carlos Rodon. In his spring debut Saturday, Fulmer gave up five hits and three runs to the Royals.
- Kendry Flores, rhp, Marlins: Miami’s No. 5 prospect, the strike-throwing Flores whiffed one in two scoreless frames against the Cardinals.
- Anthony Garcia, rf, Cardinals: The righty-swinging power threat—who had two doubles Friday—came back with a two-run single Saturday as he makes his case to join a crowded Cardinals outfield.
- Jameson Taillon, rhp, Pirates: Taillon, who has not pitched competitively in two seasons, was back on a mound Saturday. He allowed a home run to Tyler Flowers but struck out two in two innings.
- Elias Diaz, c, Pirates: Diaz, winner of the Captain’s Catcher Award as the minor’s best defensive backstop, is pushing for a backup role to Francisco Cervelli. On Saturday, he rapped out two singles and drove in a run.
- Chris Devenski, rhp, Astros: The changeup artist and hero of the Triple-A National Championship made his spring debut and baffled the Mets with four strikeouts in two scoreless frames.