Cubs: Dillon Maples is backed into a corner, despite making the team
By Jake Misener
For years now, Dillon Maples has been a huge ‘what if’ guy for Cubs fans. His stuff is filthy. Like, unhittable dirty. The only problem? Control issues have plagued him throughout his career, erasing any positive momentum his stuff garners.
Now out of options, Maples will be on Chicago’s Opening Day roster. Whether or not he’ll stick remains to be seen. But with the Cubs in a re-tooling effort this year, now’s as good a time as any to see if the right-hander can finally figure it out at the big league level.
"“His stuff is real,” Cubs manager David Ross told MLB.com. “I think he can still be a real big piece in our bullpen and get big outs. But he’s still on a path that I think we haven’t even seen the best of Dillon Maples yet.”"
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In his MLB career, Maples has 31 appearances to his credit. In those outings – all of which have come out of the bullpen. The good news? He’s struck out an impressive 15 batters per nine. The bad? He’s walked just under 10 per nine. No matter how many guys you whiff, when you’re walking more than a batter per inning, you have zero chance of success.
It’s been more of the same this spring for the former 14th-round pick. That same swing-and-miss stuff has been on full display (16 Ks in 10 1/3 IP) – but the walks have still been an issue (six walks this spring). So there’s been improvement – and now the Cubs are ready to see if it’ll make enough of a difference to where he can be a regular contributor in the bullpen.
Cubs giving Dillon Maples one last chance
Chicago isn’t built to win a World Series, especially with just days remanning until the player-imposed deadlines to extend Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. If the team enters the regular season without locking up any of the three, the Cubs could very well be a massive seller come the trade deadline.
The alternative? Watch your three franchise cornerstones walk at year’s end with nothing but a potential draft pick to show for it. That’s not a feasible path forward for the franchise, plain and simple.
It’s this very scenario that could allow Maples to simply figure it out this year, come hell or high water. He’s going to walk batters. You know that right now. There’s no reason to suggest otherwise. The question becomes: can he do enough to overcome around those walks and still pitch valuable innings?
I think you’ll see Maples have a longer leash than he’s had in the past given his contract status. Chicago will exercise every possible course of action in hopes of getting Maples settled in the pen. If he doesn’t I don’t think there’s much of a chance he clears waivers. But make no mistake. It’s now or never for this guy to figure it out.