Chicago Cubs’ Dillon Maples has his best chance to impress

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs’ Dillon Maples has seen time in each of the last three seasons, although minimal. The stuff is there. The control hasn’t been. But this might be his best chance to impress and stick around.

The Chicago Cubs’ Dillon Maples is a talented kid. Without question, if you’ve seen him pitch, the ability is there. Many of the prospects the Cubs have traded in years past were because they were ‘blocked’ by someone on the roster. Gleyber Torres. Eloy Jimenez. The one that I questioned was Dylan Cease as the Cubs struggle to develop pitching in-house. But at the time, it was a move the team thought they needed to make. You can’t hold onto them all if you want to stay competitive.

In that same breath, pitchers don’t get ‘blocked’ the same way that position players will.  Even if he’s been a starter his entire career, his ‘cup of coffee’ in the majors might be as a reliever. Early in Maples career, he saw some time as a starter in Rookie and low-A ball. It wasn’t long before the organization saw his potential as a reliever–potentially a closer–and moved him to the bullpen.

Over the last few seasons, Maples has watched his BB/9 increase, but also his K/9 numbers, as well. In 2018 and 2019 while at Iowa, he’s sat around two walks per nine, while his K-rate has been15+ per nine. If you’re familiar with spin rate, you’ll understand how he has these numbers.

Now, I know Tyler Chatwood isn’t liked by all Cubs’ fans. But he’s looked much better this season, as a reliever and a spot starter. If you’ve watched a Chatwood start, you’ll know he has a fantastic spin rate. In his two seasons on his breaking balls, his spin rate has averaged 2850 RPM (187 results.) In Maples three years in limited time, he’s averaged 2981 RPM (179 results.) The last two years, Maples has averaged 3088 RPM (117 results). These are just breaking balls, and the results are how many pitches met that criteria (slider, curveball, knuckle curve.)

Chatwood is considered to be elite as far as spin rate. Now, elite in spin rate doesn’t always translate to elite as a pitcher. That many RPMs can make the ball move. And if you have any struggles with fastball command, good hitters will be able to lay off and walk totals will rise. We’ve seen that with Chatwood, and that’s the same with Maples.

But this season, Maples may have his best chance to stick around. Pedro Strop appears to be the only reliever with a clear role as he’s the closer. The rest of the pen seems to be ‘open,’ as far as who is used when. With Brandon Morrow shut down for the time being, Brian Duensing in Iowa (and not doing well), and Carl Edwards Jr. trying to figure out his issues –he’s got the best opportunity he’s had yet.

Next. Zobrist off to a slow start after a stellar 2018. dark

If Maples can harness that spin rate while improving on fastball command, he could be a dominant part of the Chicago Cubs late-game bullpen. Highly unlikely Joe Maddon unseats Strop as the closer. But a reliable set-up man would be a welcome addition. In baseball, other players failure can lead to opportunity. This is Maples chance.