Dillon Maples was a highly thought of right-handed high school pitcher who was rated 46th among Baseball America's top 200 draft prospects in 2011. He had a strong committment to North Carolina and dropped to the 14th round where the Cubs picked him up. In order to get him to sign, the Cubs gave him $2.5 million signing bonus, which is the equivalent of first round money. Maples is 6-3 and weighs 195 pounds. He turned 21 this year on May 9th.
Maples didn't pitch in 2011 and almost as quickly as he showed up to spring training in 2012 he was having his right elbow looked at. He had some sorness in his forearm and there was a strained ligament in the elbow. The team and the doctors chose a program of rest and then rehab rather than surgery. Maples would spend much of 2012 rehabbing and the 10+ innings he did work at rookie ball were kind of ugly. He showed the kind of location that scouts feared at the time of the draft.
2013 didn't turn out much better for Maples either. He stayed behind at extrended spring training until early May at which point he went to class A Kane County. He threw about as poorly as possible once getting there. He walked a whopping 17.8% of the batters faced at this level over 11 appearances and 34.1 innings. It was quite clear Maples needed to face lesser talented hitters and the Cubs sent him down to low class A Boise.
The final results were a lot better, but he still walked over 10% of the batters he faced. He has had a healthy strikeout rate. It was 22.5% back at Boise, but under 20% at Kane County. He's going to have to throw more strikes and so far we just haven't seen it.
Dillon Maples is not as highly thought of at this point as he was after the draft. He was ranked 5th in the Cubs organization by Baseball America after 2011, but had fallen to 18th after 2012. He'll fall even further after this season.
His fastball sits in the 91-96 mph range and he also has a good curve. He's able to locate the curve better than the fastball and has worked on a changeup, but it's not been very good to this point. There are questions with his mechanics and some scouts just don't like it.
According to Baseball America, the Cubs don't want to change them and they only want to simplify them, which I'm on board with. It's fun to think teams should just force pitchers to throw with perfect mechanics, but you don't invest money in a player and then change everything that made him worth the investment in the first place. You just have to work around what the player has and build from there.
He has a short arm action, which scouts are afraid are going to cause arm troubles. For a pitcher who has already had elbow issues, this is something to watch. As mentioned, scouts have always questioned his ability to throw strikes.
Maples will return to class A Kane County next season and the Cubs hope the results will be better. He turns 22 early next season so he really needs to prove he can pitch not just well enough against A-ball hitters, but he's going to have to excel. He has a good enough fastball and curve combo to do it, but he hasn't had very good command and that's where we'll see the biggest improvement if we see any.
His ceiling as a number 2 starter hasn't changed, but the odds of him reaching it have changed significantly. He's a much worse prospect than before, but still has the potential to be a very good pitcher. I'm just afraid we're not really going to know until he gets to High A Daytona or AA Tennessee and I doubt the Cubs pull the trigger and promote him early enough for us get that look. Regardless, he remains a long way away from the big leagues.