Through his first three appearances of the season for Triple-A Iowa, the tantalizingly frustrating Dillon Maples had done his best to quiet calls for him to be called up to help a struggling Chicago bullpen. In 2.2 innings of work, he’d struck out seven but had walked just as many. In the four outings since, however, he’s turned things around.
With nine strikeouts and just one walk(!!!!), including a string of 10 straight retired, Maples is starting to display again the type of dominance that sent him rocketing from High-A to the majors in 2017. There’s always been an issue with the fastball, though, and Maples’ inability to locate it has led to his continued prospect status.
Even though he pitches backwards and works primarily off of the slider, Maples can’t be truly effective without the fastball. There have been times in the past when he’s had to completely abandon his high-90’s heater, which allows hitters to sit on the breaking ball and club mistakes.
This recent run of success, brief though it may be, is predicated on confidence in the fastball.
Dillon Maples retired 4 more in a row tonight, making it 10 in a row over 3 outings.
Maples again confidently threw fastballs for strikes tonight to help set up his slider.
Maples in his last 4: 5.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K.
Let this be it, let this be it, let this be it, le…
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) April 23, 2019
Should Maples be able to throw his four-seam for strikes on a consistent basis, he has the potential to be elite. No hyperbole. His slider may be the best in the game and when it’s set off by a fastball that touches triple digits, he can be unhittable. Only problem is, that has often meant batters not having to swing and just taking free bases with great frequency.
I’m not going to sit here and act like a few innings means Maples is fixed or whatever, nor am I going to act as though I’m not excited. Even if his control problems never completely go away, Maples would give the Cubs bullpen something it sorely lacks: A high-velocity hurler who can miss bats. Pedro Strop is really the only pitcher who fits that profile right now.
One need look no further than Carlos Marmol to understand that no amount of strikeouts can forgive chronic wildness, but I can guarantee you Maples would be more fun to watch than Alec Mills, Allen Webster, or Tim Collins. No offense to those guys, they just don’t move the needle.
So if Maples can even come close to replicating these recent results over a bigger sample, I want him on the next thing smoking to Chicago. What happens after that, I can’t take any responsibility for.