A long, long time ago, way back in the pre-rebuild, pre-World Series, pre-new-CBA days of 2011, the Chicago Cubs (led by Jim Hendry) had a good draft. Javier Baez came from that draft, as did Dan Vogelbach (who helped land Mike Montgomery).
The best pitcher the Cubs took in that draft was a high school flamethrower who needed a whole lot of refining named Dillon Maples. He was planning to play football, but the Cubs lured him into the farm system and into the hands of their training staff. For a time he was a fixture on Cubs’ top prospect lists, but as time wore on and the injuries and inconsistencies piled up, Maples faded. Some gave up on him. Some forgot about him.
The Cubs still suspected his combo of plus fastball and plus breaking ball could turn him a Major League pitcher and kept working with him. And that patience may be about to pay off.
For the first time in his career, the now 25-year-old veteran minor reliever Dillon Maples has been promoted to Double A. In 31.1 innings with Myrtle Beach he complied a 2.01 ERA (2.84 xFIP) while striking out 12.64 batters per nine innings. Walks were a touch high (4.31 BB/9), but he offset that with a 64.7% ground ball rate that helped him hold batters to just a .188 average. High A was not much of a challenge this year.
Double A might be. Then again, it may not. If he handles Double A well, and that is a big if because Double A is a significant jump in difficulty, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs go ahead and fast track him to the majors in September. The key thing to watch will be his control. If that hold up in Tennessee, Maples could turn out to be future set up guy for the Cubs.
- Williams Perez: 4.2 IP, 6 R (3 ER), 6 H, 3 BB, 5 K
- Dave Berg: 1.1 IP, 2 H
- Pierce Johnson: 2 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 4 K
- Mark Zagunis: 1 for 3, HR, BB
- Victor Caratini: 3 for 4
- Trevor Clifton: 5 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K
- Craig Brooks: 1 IP, and a line of zeroes.
- Daury Torrez: 2 IP, 2 H, 3 K
- Ryan McNeil: 1 IP, 1 H, 2 K
- Andrew Ely: 2 for 3, 2B, BB
- David Bote: 1 for 3, 2B, BB
- Yasiel Balaguert: 2 for 4, 2B, HR
- As Michael noted yesterday, the latest Baseball America mock draft sends a new name to the Cubs – catcher Daulton Varsho. The good news is that Varsho is a relatively polished left-handed hitter with decent power. So far as the bat is concerned, there is a chance he could move quickly. He also wins praise for his work behind plate, particularly blocking balls in the dirt. He’s also quicker than your average catcher, enough that the outfield may be an option as well.
- And yet, despite all that, Baseball America has him ranked as the 101st best player in the draft. MLB Pipeline says 110. Part of the problem is his arm; it might be weak enough to be a problem. If the Cubs do move in this direction, I expect it would be for a signing bonus under slot. And that may not be a bad strategy. The best way to find pitching in the draft is to draft a lot of pitchers, and one way to draft a lot of good pitchers is to save money early to spend later on. The Cubs did exactly that in 2014, and it helped land them Dylan Cease (among others).
- The peripheral numbers look a little strange, but through nine innings in Iowa Dave Berg has an ERA of just 1.00. He has only walked one, but has also only struck out two. Thirteen hits allowed aren’t great, but a GO/AO of 1.75 is very solid. Nine innings isn’t much of a sample, but if the ‘get batters out’ part of his line continues to look good, we could be looking for Berg’s arrival as a middle reliever in Chicago by the end of the season.