Cubs: This might be the end of the line for Dillon Maples
By Logan Whaley
The Chicago Cubs have a determination to make with Dillon Maples. Now out of options, Maples finds himself on the roster bubble and will be competing for one of the final bullpen spots over the next few weeks. At this last impasse with Maples, it is a difficult spot for the Cubs, who selected the hard-throwing right-hander a decade ago. In a time before the draft pool existed, Chicago had given Maples $2.5 million.
Maples sprung into the league during his first year in rookie ball. On paper, Maples’ 4.35 ERA in his first 10 1/3 innings of professional baseball was nothing special. He did, however, display a big arm and finished his first run with a 24 percent strikeout rate. Maples also held opposing hitters to a .162 average. At the time, he ranked as the organization’s number five prospect.
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In the following year, Maples found some footing in Low-A. He spun a 2.14 ERA over nine starts and heavily improved upon several areas of control and ability to hold baserunners. Maples’ walk rate restored belief in the ability to throw strikes, and for the Cubs, it felt as though they had something.
Unfortunately, a ribcage fracture to his right side hampered momentum for Maples. From 2015 leading up to 2017, the right-hander dealt with a couple of lengthy trips to the injured list. In 2017 he began the year at Myrtle Beach, Chicago’s former High-A affiliate, and pitched exceptionally well. There he posted a 2.01 ERA over 31 1/3 innings with a 34.4 percent strikeout rate.
Maples then spent 14 games at Double-A Tennessee, where he carried a 1.65 FIP and an even more substantial 43.1 percent strikeout rate. It continued to Triple-A Iowa and further on to his major league debut at the end of the year.
Cubs: Where have you gone, Mr. Maples?
An abysmal ERA stemming from one abysmal performance in his debut cup of coffee in 2017 with the Cubs overshadowed his 2.41 FIP and 2.74 xFIP, respectively. He recorded 11 strikeouts in just 5 1/3 innings and displayed the stuff the front office and fans had been waiting for since he was drafted.
In the previous few seasons, Maples has found success in Iowa, but it has not unfortunately transferred to success at the big league level. He saw just one inning of work in 2020 for the Cubs. It is difficult as he has shown the velocity and ferocity to strike guys out.
However, the control is a significant concern, and for all the positives, it may not be able to outweigh who the Cubs want Maples to be versus who Maples is in actuality. For the Cubs, who have a plethora of relief arms, Maples is on the outside looking in as a guy out of options. It is do-or-die time for the 28-year-old.