Chicago Cubs: Pitching prospects are starting to show up

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Dillon Maples, RHP

Dillon Maples was a 14th round pick in the 2011 draft. Despite being just 20 when he made his professional debut, Maples spent five seasons trying to make it past Single-A. The problem for Maples included injuries and a prolonged problem with control.

Despite having a 100 MPH fastball and an above-average breaking ball, Maples has always had a problem controlling his offerings. In 2014 for example, Maples split the season between rookie-ball and Single-A, starting ten total games. Over 28 innings, Maples walked 26 batters compared to 23 strikeouts.

As Maples continued to develop, his control problem subsided slightly. In 2015, between Low-A and Single-A, Maples appeared in 18 games, logging 35 1/3 innings pitched. In that time, Maples walked 13 batters to 27 strikeouts, averaging 3.3 free passes per game.

After walking 17 batters over 32 innings in 2016, Maples began the best season of his professional career. Finally healthy, Maples appeared in 52 games across three different levels. Maples also saved 13 games and logged 63 1/3 innings pitched. While the 25-year-old walked 37, he struck out 100 batters, averaging 14.2 per nine.

With his sterling 2.27 ERA and 6-3 record, Maples finally earned the call to the big leagues. On Sept. 3, Maples worked a clean inning against the Braves.

Outlook and ETA

Maples has all the makings of a lock-down closer if he can keep his control issues in check. With two really good pitches, it seems as if Maples is destined for the bullpen.

That outlook is not bad considering the Cubs could use some pitchers to fill out the back-end of their bullpen.

Maples has not started a game since the 2014 season and has given up just seven home runs in 245 2/3 minor league innings. To me, that sounds like a perfect candidate to assume a role in the Cubs’ bullpen in 2018. I am not saying let’s hand the keys to the closer’s spot over to him yet. First, the Cubs need to make sure he has his control issues ironed out, something he has not proven in his first 5 1/3 big league innings (six walks).