Chicago Cubs may have a lethal bullpen weapon in Dillon Maples
By Jake Misener
This time of year, big-name free agents and trade targets dominate headlines. But in Dillon Maples, the Chicago Cubs may have a valuable in-house weapon.
When the dust settled on the National League Championship Series, one weakness loomed large with this Chicago Cubs team: the bullpen. Apart from Wade Davis, Joe Maddon had no viable option in tight spots.
Carl Edwards seemed like the workload finally caught up to him. Justin Wilson, acquired at the deadline for this very situation, hardly saw action come October. Now, with Davis hitting the open market via free agency, there are far more questions than answers.
Edwards may very well be the team’s closer in 2018. If Theo Epstein chooses to not bring back Davis or pursue another free agent stopper, he’s the logical choice. Either way, though, this team will make relief pitching additions this winter – that’s not up for debate.
But we’ll pound those stories into the ground in the coming weeks and months. Today, let’s focus on someone we saw briefly in 2017 – Dillon Maples. The young right-hander made half-a-dozen appearances with the big-league club. Apart from one shoddy outing against the Pirates, he was outstanding, showcasing true swing-and-miss stuff.
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Shortly after he earned his call-up to Chicago, Maples spoke to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago.
"“Every day is the same,” Maples said. “It has to be the same. You know it’s worked in the past. It’s an easy way to turn to. Instead of calling all these people and stuff, which isn’t bad, you have to have a fallback on something. It’s your routine.”"
In 2017, the right-hander took steps forward to conquer the mental side of the game. He overcame anxiety and the results on the diamond spoke for themselves.
Despite an eye-popping earned run average in his six outings, he averaged a staggering 18.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Split between several minor league affiliates, he was just as effective, striking out greater than 14 men per nine. His big issue? Control.
He also walked more than five batters per nine. His devastating swing-and-miss slider is ready for Major League Baseball. Moving forward, he just has to continue focusing on staying headstrong and, as Maddon preaches, ‘do simple better.’
If he can do these things, the Cubs gain another high-upside arm. Walk issues plagued the entire pitching staff in 2017. New pitching coach Jim Hickey has stated he’ll make this his top priority heading into Spring Training, as well. Might as well have Maples work with the veterans and learn from them at the same time.
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Yesterday, I talked about how the Cubs have a lot of pitching talent in the farm system. One of the first likely to make a mark at Wrigley will be Maples. Keep an eye out in 2018. This kid is the real deal.