Dillon Maples Signing Shows that Ricketts is Serious About Farm System

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.

Permission granted.

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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  • As exciting as it is that he projects as being mature/polished, he's still a highschool pitcher, and unfortunately, one can't rush them to the majors like a fielder. I'm not sure how quickly he'll move through the system, but it's likely he doesn't debut until mid-late 2014. Even then, he'll be sloted in as the 5th guy to conserve innings.

    I guess thats being too negative in a way, I'm hopeful that he can dominate in the minors and work his way up to being ML-ready, and polish his game while he waits.

    And a question about the 'power curve'...I would think that it's similar to a slider in terms of movement, with minimal upwards curve with a more pronounced dive. The upside there is that I would assume that using a curve grip would put less strain on his arm than a slider, or so I've been led to believe.

  • The exciting thing about Maples right now is that it's symbolic of the Cubs reinvestment in amateur talent. As for actually helping them, yeah that's still a few years away.

    You would be correct on the "power curve". It has a sharper downward break. The other common curve is what scouts often call a 12-6 curve. That is the big, looping type of curve that former Cub Rich Hill had. That pitch is cool, but very hard to control. The curve does indeed put less strain on the arm than a slider. That bodes well for his health, hopefully.

  • Then there's always the theory on pitch-count vs innings vs stressful innings.

    And apparently TV died this morning, so no recording of the Cubs game today :( Was really looking forward to seeing Casey Coleman.

  • While this kid sound very impressive, it shows that Ricketts is putting his money where his mouth is , concerning plater development. I just wish Ricketts was more creative and bold when it came to who runs the Cubs, since he seems enamored with Hendry. Ironically while Ricketts is know to be a fan ofsabremetrics and a admirer of the Boston Red Sox, Hendry is known in baseball circles for NOT being a fan of moneyball and finding some aspects of sabremetrics garbage.

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    I would like this as well. Here's the thing though. Ricketts is a business man. The first rule in business when you buy something, is not to fiddle with it right away. Generally for the first 1-2 years you let it run, especially when it's profitable. It's frustrating for a baseball fan, but he's doing the right thing for the business. Like you said, I love he's putting his money where his mouth is! We're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and boy is it bright!

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    Excellent point. Its difficult to be patient sometimes as a fan, but Ricketts needs a little time to put his own stamp on the organization. He is already showing that with the draft & latin signing department. We need to exercise even more patience while waiting for these kids now, but the point is they are on the way. So is Ricketts. As time goes on, he will change the team a little more, and a little more, and a little more. The first step as you mention though is to get in there, evaluate, & see how things run. You've got to give your current employees a chance, and I get that.

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    Hendry doesn't fit the sabermetrics model at all. If Ricketts wants to strike a balance and get a numbers guy, it makes sense that he'll want that guy as GM or at least in a prominent position. The Cubs already has one of the best old-school scouts in the game in Wilken, whom Ricketts seems to respect very much. Tom Loxas of Cubs Insider had a nice article to on how Wilken himself may be modernizing his approach a bit. I don't see him leaving if Ricketts has any say...what does that mean for Hendry? I guess we'll find out soon. Whether Hendry stays or goes, I can see some restructuring in the front office to try and modernize the Cubs approach a bit more and try to strike a balance between scouting and statistical analysis.

  • Scott Sanderson had a nice overhand curve. The only issue with that pitch is it's easy to pick-up. The elbow tucks and you're karate chopping down with the release point.

    I can't wait to actually see Maples pitch. I like the kids we have, but we need a bad-ass hard throwing kid with the hammer curve. A kid with that "it" factor. Hopefully Maples is our guy. If Cashner can stay healthy and continue to develop, that could be a nice 1-2 punch down the road.

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    Sanderson is a great example of that kind of curve. That is an issue...I think having consistent command of it is another.

    I think the Cubs now have 5 frontline candidates: Garza, Cashner, McNutt, Ben Wells, and Maples. You have to hope 2-3 pan out.

  • Just voted for you John as blogger of the year! For those of you who haven't yet:

    http://chicago.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/blog/106-cubs-den/

    Keep up the good work, love reading ya!

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Thanks ChiRy! Don't forget you can vote every day. I just added a link on my page that goes directly to my page.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Did that yesterday, will do that again today! Thanks for the reminder!

  • fb_avatar

    Good point. Sanderson didn't always have consistent command of that pitch. He had better command of his other curve. That was a harder curve with less break.

  • Good memory...I always remember Sanderson more for his big, looping curve. That, the fact that he pitched incredibly slow and he always seemed to do well in cold weather when he was allowed to blow in his hand.

    But I forgot he had that second, tighter curve to fall back on. Good catch!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good memory to you both! Scott Sanderson always made me laugh, the guy looked like a banker in a baseball uniform. Definitely no nasty disposition in Scotty.

  • I love that Ricketts is proving his belief in building through the farm system. During a recent press conference, in Peoria I believe, he was asked about this subject, particularly if they could be among the best in baseball, because now they are putting the resources in. Ricketts answered that he wasn't sure if it was a matter of just resources. He didn't elaborate further, nor was asked a follow up. Do you know what Tom meant by that? Maybe he was saying big market teams can't compete with the 2-3 elite minor league systems of some smaller market teams, because of things like expectations at the MLB level & picking lower in the draft every year?

    Also about Maples, do you project him as a #2 type starter, if he realizes his potential? Seems similar to a Matt Garza type.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    just finished reading the rest of your article and you do compare him to Matt Garza! Great minds think alike. Do you see him having the same type of upside?

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Haha! He actually compared himself to Garza -- but I agree with both of you! Similar stuff and a similar approach to hitters. I think he can definitely be that kind of pitcher -- hopefully with better luck, though!

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I think he was referring to scouting and possibly factoring in some more statistical analysis. You need the money, but you also need the right philosophy and direction -- with the right staff to pull it off and give that money to the right players. My guess is he was happy with Wilken's performance.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So you think during that interview, he was kind of hinting that the club might need to go in another direction? Would make sense. You could tell he didn't want to elaborate & say too much, and the rest of the interview had that same kind of feel.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I don't think he doesn't like to talk about specific names. He prefers to talk general philosophy. That's cool with me. You want your boss to be like that.

    Whether it's an actual change in personnel (I think there will be some, even if Hendry stays) or more about changing the Cubs philosophy toward building an organization, I'm not sure.

    One thing that is becoming increasingly apparent to me is that walks and OBP are being valued more, even since last season. When you see top hitters signed last year from Jeimer Candelario to Carlos Penalver to Reggie Golden...they all have plate discipline. This year, the Cubs are talking about how the hitters they chose have discipline as well...Baez, Vogelbach, DeVoss etc.

    I think the shift is already happening, even with the current personnel. There is increasing emphasis on on-base skills at the lower levels, which is great to see. Wilken seems to be on board...I'm not sure about Hendry, though. It's been said he scoffs at "some" advanced stats. I would hope that wouldn't include OBP, it seems pretty obvious that the higher your OBP, the less outs you make, the better your team's chances to win...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with everything you say, but I just think its interesting that he said building up the minors is not just about resources, but wouldn't say what else it was about. Was he just talking about Hendry or others in the organization? Does he believe the Cubs can have the best foundation in all of baseball?

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I think he does believe it, but not with the team constructed as it is now.

    I don't know if he meant Hendry. It's certainly possible. There's also guys like Kenney, Asst. GM Bush who really don't challenge Hendry too much. Bush is too similar to Hendry while Kenney doesn't have the baseball acumen to offer anything. That's why this Kaplan idea has been growing on me. Give him a larger role and make him a bigger part of the process.

  • Good thing we have some power arms in AA and AAA. Marmol might not have that closer job next season. Do we see Dolis or Carpenter getting some reps at closer in September?

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    I'd like to see it. Dolis has been more successful in that role. His command is better than Carpenter's and his stuff is similar.

    Would like to see the Cubs shop Marmol in the offseason. Worse case scenario is you have Wood close if the kids aren't ready. No use paying so much for a closer and the Cubs should see what they get while his value is still pretty high (as far as closers go, anyway)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I would like to see that too. I was hoping they would shop him before the deadline. Hopefully that value is still decent, I know the contract isn't great...if I'm not mistaken it escalates pretty good the next two years.

    On another note, watching Casey Coleman, gives me the same feeling in the pit of my stomache as when Frank Castillo took the mound for us back in the day. If the sun, moon, stars allign perfectly, we're good. But when they just have their normal stuff, you kind of know it's a matter of time before they get hit.

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    I know what you mean about Coleman. He needs to have everything working. To me, he's not a long term answer.

  • I would love for them to shop Marmol, if the cubs are serious about retooling, rebuilding ...whatever you want to call it, Marmol is a nice start. Marmol could fetch some good prospects and the Cubs have Carpenter and Dolis , who they like, why not?

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    If it were me I'd really look hard into this. I can see perhaps not trading him at the deadline because you rarely get a lot back in those deals, but he's an ideal piece to trade if the Cubs want to shore up other areas.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hey John, I recently discovered your blog and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

    Another benefit to waiting until the off season to look into trading Marmol is that you can pedal him to all clubs in such of the best offer, had they moved him at the deadline several teams wouldn't have kicked the tires because they were out of the race. That being said, I would like to see them trade him to Texas though, they have a deep farm system that could help plug a few holes for the Cubs.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Thanks supercapo, I appreciate that.

    That's an excellent point in that there should be a bigger market for him this winter. Should be some interest from some big teams. Yankee fans are starting to worry about Rivera, so there's a possibility there too. Phillies situation always seems to be muddled. But like you said, even teams that were out of the race will be intrigued by picking up a closer like Marmol. Read that one exec still considers him one of the top 7 closers in the game. You'd think that'd bring back something decent!

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