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Maeda Emerges as the Ace Minnesota Needed

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 23 September 2020 · 2,148 views

minnesota twins kenta maeda jose berrios brusdar graterol
All offseason the talk was that the Minnesota Twins needed an ace. Someone that could slot into the rotation at the level of Jose Berrios or higher would fit that bill. There was plenty of consternation when it took moving Brusdar Graterol to land the piece, but Kenta Maeda is here to stay.

The Dodgers signed Maeda out of Japan and his first season in the majors came at 28-years-old. Despite being relied upon for over 500 innings while with Los Angeles, Maeda was often shuffled back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. Given their overall pitching strength it was a luxury LA had, but one that wore on the Japanese star.

Deemed expendable this offseason and enticed by a flame throwing prospect, the Dodgers made the move and Minnesota got their guy. Dubbed a number three in the Dodgers rotation behind the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, there was always plenty of upside for the Twins to exploit. Fast forward to the final week of the 2020 Major League Baseball season and Minnesota seems to have found their ace.

Through 10 starts Maeda owns a sparkling 2.52 ERA. He has a career best 10.5 K/9 and also is allowing a career low 1.5 BB/9. He leads the league with a 5.3 H/9 and also has a league leading 0.758 WHIP. He’s got a 5-1 record in the decisions column, and Minnesota is 7-3 when he takes the ball. He’s yet to miss a quality start in any turn, and he’s gone at least 6.0 IP in seven of his 10 total outings.

No matter how you define the role of an ace Kenta Maeda has embodied it this season. He’s been dominant. He’s been reliable. He’s been consistent. Now it also looks like he’ll be rewarded as Minnesota’s game one starter in the Wild Card round of the Postseason. Starting on Wednesday the 23rd against the Tigers, he lines up to toe take the ball when the Twins open a home playoff series.

There could certainly be some handwringing over the fact that it’s Maeda and not Jose Berrios being entrusted with the opportunity to set the tone in a short series, however this elevation of ability is probably good for both of them. Berrios really struggled out of the gate this year for the Twins, and despite being dominant of late, he had an uphill battle to climb. It was hoped that 2020 would be another step forward for Jose, and while the sum of all parts may represent as much, it’s again been a tale of two halves.

As Minnesota looks to rebuild their rotation again in 2021, with plenty of departures pending, it will be a welcome relief that Berrios is joined by another constant in Maeda. Neither of these guys will crack true ace status across baseball, reserved for just the top ten or so arms in the sport. However, both can pitch as staff aces, and the ability to be interchangeable or play off of one another is something that Rocco Baldelli and his staff have to be excited about for years to come.

It’s certainly not easy moving on from a prospect that has been talked up for so long. When you have an opportunity to cash in for proven, upper level talent though, you have to jump at it. Maybe Brusdar Graterol will turn out to be more than Maeda ever is, but by that time Minnesota will be long past the current window they’re looking to capitalize on.

You wanted an ace Twins fans, and he’s here, in the form of Kenta Maeda.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • Aichiman likes this

The word "Ace" in MN has become synonymous with the word "Unicorn". We have heard they exist, but at least locally, haven’t see one in years. The last being Johann Santana. Our desire to find one of these rarities has led to a raft of "Is (fill in the blank) our ace? An Ace?


i agree that’s Maeda is the current occupant of that elusive role. But I also appreciate that you have differentiated between Ace and ace.

Ted Schwerzler
Sep 25 2020 02:09 PM

But I also appreciate that you have differentiated between Ace and Ace.

It’s a tough pill for fans to swallow, but there’s maybe 10 aces in all of baseball, and some of them are on the same team.
    • Platoon likes this