Ems player Dillon Maples has been called up to South Bend. Take good care of him @SBCubs! Best of luck Dillon
— Eugene Emeralds (@EugeneEmeralds) June 27, 2015
And with one simple tweet, he is back where his troubles began.
Dillon Maples was selected by the Cubs in the 14th round in the 2011 MLB Draft out of high school. At the time, Maples had strong commitment to play both football and baseball at the University of North Carolina. He was considered a first round talent and his desire to attend to college was seen as almost unbreakable. Almost. After spending five weeks in the summer at North Carolina, Maples made his decision. The Cubs got him to sign for $2.5 million – an amazing amount back at the time.
He began his career in fall instructs in 2011 and fanned fix of six batters in his two-inning outing but the next time out didn’t go so well. When the offseason came, Maples also struggled with the new regimen of being an athlete full time; he failed to live up the details of a throwing program.
Maples owned up to his shortcomings, saying “I take full responsibility for my throwing. The throwing program is on us. I wasn’t smart with the throwing program. I looked at it and was like, ‘OK, I’ll do some of this, I’ll do some of my stuff.’ This offseason [2011-2012], I’ll follow it religiously.”
He was not ready for spring training in 2012 and had nagging injuries as a result. Maples was assigned to rookie ball in 2012 in Arizona. His reportoire was all there: a mid 90s fastball, a devastating, almost unhittable curve. Stung by the minor injuries, he only saw action in 6 games. He compiled a 4.35 ERA and struck out 12 in ten innings.
Maples said of his injuries, “They told me, ‘Six weeks, no throwing,’ and I was like, ‘OK, six weeks, I’ll be back in 2 1/2 weeks.’ I started talking to Chuck [Baughman], the [athletic] trainer, and he said, ‘There’s this throwing program you have to do, and you have to work back into it.’ When you get hurt, it’s not just as soon as you’re healthy, you start playing. You have to rehab.”
In 2013, he started out at Kane County, which was probably a mistake. He should have started at short-season Boise. In 11 outings at Kane County, he had a 8.31 ERA in 34 innings. He struck out 34, but walked 31 and hit 8 batters for a nasty WHIP of 1.84 while hitters only managed to hit .242 against him.
He spent the second half of the season at Boise and a legend was born that summer. Playing alongside Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood, the three righties dominated the Northwest League. Maples went 5-2 in 9 starts with a 2.14 ERA. At one point mid season, he had a 0.96 ERA. For the short season at Boise, he struck out 41 in 42 innings and cut his walk rate in half to 19 – still high, but much improved.
Many people, this blogger included, began to fall in love with the thought of him pitching at Kane County in 2014. Many thought there were going to be “Waves of Pitching,” as Theo and Jed had promised and that Maples would be a big part of that.
But then 2014 Spring Training happened. Maples broke a rib in Arizona and never recovered. He did pitch in 10 games between Boise and Rookie League, but he was not 2013 Dillon Maples.
I still hoped he could return. I felt bad for him, as most of the players he began playing with are at AA and high A and here Maples was trying to figure a way out Arizona in 2015. He has become a Roy Hobbs-like figure just for the one summer at Boise. The Cubs don’t have a lot of guys who throw mid-90’s heat with ease, but Maples can do that. Problem is he has trouble getting it over. I think the rib injury last year shut down any hopes he had of starting this year. He needs to build up confidence in himself first, then his arm, then his coaches.
This spring saw Maples transition to a relief role and he had two good outings out of three in Eugene. His ERA was high there just for one bad outing. However, last night’s two inning crescendo, in which he struck out 3, brought back memories of 2013. I was stunned to see the tweet that he was promoted so soon. It took two years, but the 6’2″ and 195 pound right handed pitcher is back in low-A ball.
I am excited yet I have a little trepidation – I don’t want to see him fail. I want him to succeed and I think a relief role will be better since he can just focus on a couple of pitches. His curve is legendary and his fastball can get up there. I just hope they go across the plate – that would be great! He is a nice piece to add to a bullpen that’s on a roll.
I’ll be even happier if he can make it here and move on to Myrtle Beach. It’s been a long road back.