Dillon Maples has been somewhat of an enigma since signing with the Cubs for $2.5 million in the 2011 draft. His age and injuries prevented him from throwing but a handful of innings in 2011 and 2012, and yet he was ranked amongst the top ten prospects in the Cubs system by both John Sickels and Jason Parks based on his enormous upside. Cubs fans have been waiting for a glimpse of him for years, and only recently have they had that chance. Unfortunately, he has struggled greatly in his Midwest League debut, pitching to a 7.71 ERA with 31 walks and 31 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.
Maples has the stuff to be an unbelievable pitcher. After two viewings, I am comfortable in saying that his ceiling is that of a 2, or a great late inning arm. He can dial it up to the mid-90s, and his curveball is a lethal pitch. It has huge 12-6 break, and he occasionally throws it with more 11-5 break. That said, Maples has serious work to do if he even wants to get out of the Midwest League, let alone reach his ceiling.Video from 6/3/2013, Maples’ Best Start. Watch til you see the curveballs, they’re ridiculous
To put it nicely, Dillon Maples has trouble repeating his mechanics. He doesn’t have much of a wind-up, and prefers to take just a little slide-step to get into his delivery. Maples drives towards the plate with above-average momentum that allows him to fire the ball from a deep release point, which make his fastball appear faster than it already is. Despite the good momentum generated, the stride and foot-strike are where Maples’ delivery falls apart.
When I have seen him, Maples prefers to stride towards the right-handed batters’ box, a move that should add deception to his delivery. Unfortunately, he has trouble finding his balance in this position, and often landed on the side of his foot causing him to quite literally lose balance and nearly fall mid-pitch. When he wasn’t falling over, Maples still had trouble finding his balance with this stride, and was constantly falling off towards first. At times, though, his stride was much more towards the center of the mound. In this position, Maples’ delivery was balanced and his posture was very good.
Maples has an inverted-W pattern in his arm movements, something that should cause at least some concern about his future arm health. From that position, Maples does a good job of keeping his shoulders closed until foot-strike in his best deliveries, but flies open early pretty often.
What Dillon Maples has going for him is his athleticism. He has the fluidity and body control to make strides in improving his mechanics and then repeat them consistently in game action. Ideally, Maples would have started making those adjustments by now, but he simply has not been healthy enough to log the innings to do so.
In the game from the video above, Maples was only sitting 89-91 mph, but I have seen him touch 96 mph. The fastball is fairly straight, but comes out of a steep, deep release point from a somewhat deceptive delivery. He generated 6 whiffs on the fastball on June 3 against a lineup that has a lot of talent, an impressive feat. At his best (which is likely what I saw), Maples can command the fastball arm-side and let it run a bit when he wants to. When he is forced to throw the fastball glove-side, he often can’t quite get it there, leaving it out and over the plate. Curiously, glove-side fastballs were the pitches that gave him the most trouble with his balance on the mound, which makes me wonder if there’s any way he can keep the current (well, the most common) delivery.
One of the remarkable things I saw out of Maples was his ground-ball generation. He is generating 2.14 groundouts per air-out this season, and I saw him generate 7 groundballs in only 9 balls put in play that night. He generates a steep plane on his fastball, and I expect his ground-ball tendencies to continue.
Holy smokes. Dillon Maples has a ridiculous curveball. If you haven’t watched the video, go watch and get a look at that curve. I’ll wait.
There isn’t much to say about this pitch. When I saw him from behind home, Maples was in total command of his curve. Beyond the video-game break he occasionally flashed, he was working it arm-side and glove-side with good command, and he could bury it on lefties’ back foot at will. For someone with as many command issues as him, it was crazy to see what he was doing with his curve. It’s a great pitch.
There isn’t much right now. Though I did see him have his best night, a start where he was commanding his fastball in spurts, he still walked three and hit two in five innings. The ball can get away from Maples, and when he loses his release point (or landing spot. or balance. or timing of his trunk rotation.), it stays away for a while. I saw him flash enough in one start that I feel that he has the chance to develop passable command in the future, but he has so much work to do to reach that point. In the second start I saw from Maples, he failed to escape the first inning after walking four batters – so I have certainly seen the bad side of Maples.
I want to stress that, though I feel like I have done a decent job of explaining his faults, that my impression of Dillon Maples is impacted by what I have seen out of him – 5 innings where he absolutely shoved and 2/3 of an inning where he was horrific. I am aware of his very disappointing results this season, but I have seen what Dillon Maples can do even with disastrous mechanics, and as a result I am overall rather hopeful for his future, even if it is in the bullpen. He has a long, long road ahead of him, but the raw stuff is very impressive and his athleticism should help him develop better mechanics.