Chicago Cubs: Dillon Maples could earn a permanent roster spot in 2018

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

The Chicago Cubs sent relief pitcher Dillon Maples to Triple-A camp on Friday. He won’t be making the major league team out of spring training, but Maples should be a key piece on the roster in 2018.

Dillon Maples’ few 2017 MLB appearances for the Chicago Cubs were hardly that of a pitcher you’d want to take up a roster spot. In his 5 1/3 major league innings, Maples’ ERA was 10.13. Before being demoted to the Iowa Cubs Friday, Maples’ spring training ERA was 14.29. Despite the small sample size, his struggles and demotion are enough to turn some fans off of Maples. However, Maples could be a mainstay in the bullpen by season’s end.

Even his major league peripherals aren’t as bad as they seem

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A 10.13 ERA is bad. No one will argue otherwise. However, Maples may have pitched in front of the Cubs’ defense on rare off days. Maples’ major league FIP is 2.41.

That difference between FIP and ERA would only be found in a sample size as small as Maples’ is. The low FIP is likely due to his giving up few hits and instead most of his earned runs coming from hitters who walked. Still, the FIP can be reassuring while the sky-high unattractively on his Baseball Reference page.

Maples’ issue is clear: he’s walking too many batters. But he’s also struck out 11 hitters and didn’t allow a home run in his 5 1/3 innings. At the end of the day, that not anywhere near enough to draw conclusions on a pitcher. His minor league numbers, however, are more telling.

Minor league numbers are hopeful

Maples was a different pitcher in the minors than what Cubs’ fans have seen in his very few major league appearances. His minor league statistics also don’t reek of small sample size as his major league stats do.

In 245 2/3 innings pitched at various levels of minor league baseball, Maples’ has an ERA of 4.54. It doesn’t pop off the page, but other numbers are more flattering.

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Maples averages 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. He also allows just 0.3 home runs per 9 innings pitched. When the statistics are looked at all together, Maples’ top issue is pretty clear.

Maples’ control is the only thing between him and the major leagues. If he can learn to find the strike zone with more regularity, he’ll become a valuable asset to Joe Maddon’s bullpen.