Scouting director Tim Wilken loved Dillon Maples stuff, makeup and feel for pitching. Maples is well-aware of what he needs to work on and already seems to know how to win without his best stuff. He has an advanced idea of how he wants to approach hitters. As impressive as Maples arsenal of pitches is, this seems to be what impressed Wilken the most.
"(All) our reports were very similar — a plus fastball, 91-97 (mph), with a power curve and a decent changeup, and a good feel for pitching," Wilken said. "That's a big prerequisite for me because that's what you need from guys who are going to be starters."
Like many teams, Wilken viewed the 6'3, 197 lbs right hander as a first round talent -- even in an extraordinarily deep 2011 draft class. The problem was Maples asking price, reportedly $3M to give up the chance to play both football and baseball at the University of North Carolina. When that scared off teams from drafting him and Maples was still available in the 14th round, Wilken asked Rickett if it was okay to draft him.
In fact, according to ESPN's Bruce Levine, Ricketts even did him one better. When he'd heard about Maples potential, he personally sat in on the the negotiations and made sure Maples got signed. Wilken was impressed.
The truth is that the Cubs had not been spending on amateur talent the way a team with their financial might should. There was some thought Wilken would leave because the previous owners did not fulfill their promise to invest in the team's farm system. Ricketts stepped in as owner and reassured Wilken that profits and money saved from shaving team payroll would be reallocated to the draft and international prospects. He not only backed up the previous owner's promises, he improved on them. The result is that Wilken said that this is the best draft he's had since coming to the Cubs in 2006. And Wilken was quick to share the credit with Ricketts...
“I think if it’s the same draft or similar, Tom would be (spending a lot of money) because that’s been his stance all along,” Wilkens said. “That’s been his stance all along, to build the organization up. I think he truly believes in that and I know I do.”
This correlates with my own knowledge of the Cubs new philosophy. In my brief exchange with Ricketts earlier this year, he emphasized to me how the Cubs were working toward building through the farm system, specifically mentioning the Dominican Republic and the the draft. No one is more symbolic of that refocus and investment than Dillon Maples, who didn't quite get his $3M, but he came close, getting a $2.5M signing bonus and money for school.
As for Maples himself, if you're wondering what kind of pitcher he is, he likens himself to Josh Beckett or the Cubs own Matt Garza, both of whom work with a big fastball and big breaking pitches. He is a power pitcher of the first order. A reader chimed in yesterday to add that he had played against Maples and that the pitcher has "a nasty disposition". I like that in a power pitcher. It brings to mind pitchers like Drysdale and Gibson, or if you prefer a modern reference, Jered Weaver. But before you think he has issues with self-control, that is not the case at all. Maples is about winning the game, first and foremost. When a player hit a home run and did some showboating around the bases in a game this summer, Maples said, "
I didn't care. The scoreboard says it all...as long as we win."
Now that's something that will be welcome here for Cubs fans.
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