A year ago, Dillon Maples was the Cubs highest profile signing and immediately stepped in as arguably the Cubs best pitching prospect. They paid the right-hander $2.5M to forgo the opportunity to play both baseball and football at the University of North Carolina.
Since then, he has slipped a bit into the background. The Cubs have added Arodys Vizcaino, Pierce Johnson, Juan Carlos Paniagua, and Duane Underwood, all of whom, along with Maples, are jockeying to position themselves as the Cubs top pitching prospect. An injury that kept him out until late this season didn't help, as has his inability to consistently find the plate.
Despite the huge bonus, Maples is by no means a can't-miss prospect. There was some mixed opinion when he was drafted and while some, like the Cubs, saw him as a first round talent, others saw some serious flaws. There was enough doubt to push him down draft boards and put his signability into question.
Most of those doubts stem from a delivery that is...well, not ideal. He has good arm action, but it's short, almost as if he's punching the ball toward home plate. He doesn't drive downward at the end of his delivery, he lands almost upright. It puts lot of strain on his arm and makes it difficult for him to stay consistent and develop good command.
The old regime wasn't worried, but since then the concerns about his command and susceptibility to injury have proven to be valid ones. Without having seen him yet, I imagine that the Cubs will tinker with that delivery this fall.
What is not in doubt is Maples' stuff and his ability to miss bats. Reports from his stint in the Arizona Rookie League had Maples at 92-96 mph with a good curveball.
But while the potential is evident, the results have been spotty. Maples workes 10.1 innings, posting a 4.35 ERA. He allowed just 6 hits and struck out 12, but he also walked 10 batters.
So far in instructs, the control problems have persisted. Per The Cub Reporter, Maples has walked 5 batters in 3.2 innings. He also has remained tough to hit. In fact, he has yet to allow one while striking out 5.
Maples has as much raw ability as any of the Cubs top pitching prospects, but tapping into it may depend on cleaning up his delivery and learning to command his great stuff. While the Cubs have added to their stable, they are still in dire need of impact talent on the mound. Maples development this fall would be a big boost in that pursuit.
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