dillon maplesSince he was signed out of the 14th round in 2011 for $2.5 million, pitcher Dillon Maples has been one of the most heralded, but least well-known, Chicago Cubs prospects. We knew that he had tremendous raw stuff, and we knew that he was a great athlete. But that was about it. And after an arm issue cost him most of his 2012 season, we probably felt like we knew even less.

Carrie Muskat recently spoke to the 20-year-old righty about his 2012 season and the hurdles he faced, and about what he sees ahead for himself. A snippet:

“My first year of pro ball didn’t go exactly how I drew it up,” Maples said. “I learned a lot from this year.”

Two days before he showed up for a mini-camp, Maples was throwing on flat ground.

“That night, I was eating, and then I turned the channel on the remote and I was like, ‘Man, something [hurts] in my forearm,'” he said.

Unexplained soreness in a pitcher’s forearm is not a good thing.

“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Maples said during an interview in Mesa, Ariz. “I came in and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a little tender spot in my forearm.’ The next thing I know, it turned into a pretty serious thing.”

Maples had a strained ligament in his elbow. That kind of injury can result in Tommy John surgery.

“I really didn’t know the extent of what my injury was,” Maples said. “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.’ ….

The lesson he learned was the importance of following the Cubs’ offseason workout program.

“I take full responsibility for my throwing,” Maples said. “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, I’ll follow [the Cubs’ program] religiously.”

Obviously you hate to hear about a kid losing a season to injury, and you hate to hear that it may have been related to a failure to adhere to the Cubs’ guidelines. But if it leads to a valuable lesson and a productive change? Maybe it was all for the best.

I remember back when minor league camp broke, I heard from a very reliable source (by way of Kevin Goldstein) that Maples was expected to miss only about six weeks, as his quote up there indicated. Obviously something must have not progressed perfectly in that part of the rehab, because he didn’t end up pitching in games until the very end of the year. Again, that doesn’t necessarily indicate any kind of serious problem – it could have been the Cubs taking it easy on the young arm.

I also remember back when Maples was drafted that there was talk of his mechanics needing a complete overhaul (more than most, from the sound of things). Perhaps the Cubs took advantage of his limited in-game time the last year and a half to really work on that delivery. All in all, there’s a lot to look forward to from Maples this year, and it will be interesting to see his progress.

  • King Jeff

    Maples has kind of been a forgotten man since he got that big bonus. Glad to hear it was from more of his own ignorance to the benefits of a professional program and the rigors of being a professional pitcher, than it was anything performance-wise. I hope he turns in a strong season this year, he seems like he’s got a fairly level head, and it seems like he can learn and grow from past mistakes and avoid the injury bug.

  • BD

    It’s surprising how many young pitchers the Cubs have in the category “Wait and see what happens this year” with the possibility of a good outcome causing the minor league system to look promising on the pitching side too.

    • King Jeff

      Agreed. McNutt, Johnson, Blackburn, Maples, Vizcaino, Underwood, Paniagua, and Loux, just off the top of my head are all guys that are facing big seasons, which, if successful, could give the farm system a serious jump.

      • Spriggs

        That is a pretty good list. I don’t know anything about Loux, but I would personally add McNeil to that list.

      • George Costanza

        Lets hope pitching Guru Derek Johnson can make an impact on all of these guys.

        • Adventurecizin’ Justin

          The big club may not be very good this year, but I think we could see some very exciting things from the prospects. Creating a position and hiring Derek Johnson for it could be a genius move.

      • EQ76

        and maybe Whitenack.

  • When the Music’s Over

    What’s a proper over/under on IPs for Maples this year?

    • King Jeff

      I think anything over 100 is pushing it.

      • When the Music’s Over

        I was thinking they wouldn’t allow him to go past about 75 IP. That’s still a massive jump from last year.

  • Andy

    Just to check if I’m reading this correctly… He got signed way overslot for $2.5M and when handed a list of exercises to follow, he decided to do “do some of this”? Hopefully this was the smack in the face he needed to mature quickly.

    • DarthHater

      Yea, I think you’re reading it correctly. Apparently he thought the Cubs were paying him $2.5 million to do whatever he felt like doing.

      • Scott

        Personally, when I was 19, I did everything that adults told me to do. Give him a break, he was, and still is, a kid. Sounds like he learned a lesson and is moving forward.

        • DarthHater

          Huh. And here I thought he got a break when somebody gave him $2.5 million dollars at age 19.

          • Adventurecizin’ Justin

            You’re right. He did. But now what is his incentive? He has already pocketed more money than most hardworkin’ Americans receive in a lifetime. He can do whatever he wants and still be a millionaire.

            • Dave

              I thought his incentive was to be a pro ball player.
              If pocketing the money is all he is about then the Cubs did a poor job of evaluatiing his character and make up before drafting him.

  • cheryl

    Question about another draftee – Hayden Simpson. Any progress or is he out of the picture entirely? Did see a brief note that he’d made some progress at Boise in 2012, but that’s about it. He probably had everything that could go wrong go wrong for him after getting mono.

  • ruby2626

    But by taking the Cubs $2.5M he lost out on being the punter at the school of higher learning North Carolina. I blame the Cubs for not monitoring his progress, he should have had a mandatory routine with the team trainer no ifs ands or buts. This episode really makes the Cubs and Maples look stupid.

  • Marc N.

    At least the 3rd Cubs pitcher to have forearm/elbow issues and not have surgery. This in the same season they traded for a recent TJ surgery patient. As Chip would say, Dat don’t make no sense!

    No really, I really want to know what they’re researching as far as pitcher health. I get that elbow injuries have fallen to the wayside as career killers, but the Cubs don’t seem to be phased at all.

  • Stevie B

    Mr. Maples, meet Mr. John, first name….Tommy.

  • Muck

    What happened to Jay Jackson??

  • steve

    I am really excited about some of the young pitching we have in the system, and what Derek Johnson does to help their development. Personally I really think that Maples can turn into something really good, if he follows the plan and we bring him along without rushing him. The three young guys we drafted early last draft can be pretty good, IMO, and I think at least two of them can rocket thru the system relatively fast. I would love to see us draft Appel cause he would give us a real good young arm close to being ready as is. Vizciano should also be nearly ready, however I think we shouldn’t rush him to the bigs this year. He’s had some serious injuries to his arm already twice and we should just build the kid up. With the depth we have now in the majors, we really shouldn’t need to rush anyone along. I also think that with Vizciano’s arm issues and the depth we’re beginning to add to the system, we should just work on making him the closer of the future and go from there.

    Loux can be pretty good as well, IMO. I think he might be a kid that can make it to the majors should we need a young arm. Within 3 years we can and should have a very good, and deep staff in the majors filled mostly with home grown talent. Hell I can see in two years the rotation having Appel, Loux, Blackburn, possibly Wells and Maples, with maybe Whiteknack and Vizciano there or in the back end of the pen, with other young guys coming fast. It’s a very exciting time for us cubs fans when we think about the talent we have coming up thru the system. I just touched on the arms, the position players are even more exciting

  • cubsin

    I’d add Ben Wells, Lendy Castillo, Tony Zych, Tayler Scott and Angel Cabrera to that young pitcher list. I’ll also be watching Carlos Rodriguez and Daury Torrez, who were in the DSL last year