Cubs Relief Prospect Dillon Maples Brings His Frisbee Slider Back to the Big Leagues (UPDATE: Annnnd He's Gone)

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Cubs Relief Prospect Dillon Maples Brings His Frisbee Slider Back to the Big Leagues (UPDATE: Annnnd He’s Gone)

Chicago Cubs
[UPDATE for the roster move: Tyler Chatwood is back from the paternity list, and, given that Maples threw the most pitches among the rotating relievers last night, he’s the guy to get optioned back to Iowa. Keep working on that command, young man, and you’ll be back quite soon.]

Dillon Maples was the most rapidly ascendant prospect in the Cubs’ system last year, having begun the season on the last legs of his career in High-A, and having ended the season in the big leagues.

Maples, 26, had refined his slider into wiffleball mode, and had developed just enough command with his fastball that he could keep his walk rate in the mid-teens. That made him a plenty usable reliever, given that he was striking guys out at a 40ish% clip.

With the big league team late last year, we got glimpses of the stuff, and it was very clearly back-end-of-the-big-league-bullpen quality. He can throw his frisbee slider for strikes or bury it, and he can pump a 97-98 mph fastball into the upper third of the strike zone with great spin. His mold is that of an elite reliever … right down to the need to really master the command in order to actually succeed.

We got to see some Dillon Maples last night, and the movement on the slider was still as ridiculous as you remember:

That’s one of the best pitches in the game right there, and he can be an effective big league reliever with it alone, if he can command it all around the zone. One-pitch relievers do exist, and you can carve out a career that way.

But if Maples wants that pitch to unhittable consistently, he’ll have to pair it with a fastball that he can throw for strikes. Right now, he has trouble keeping his 97+ mph fastball in the zone, and he’s limited to using it as a very rare change of pace.

As soon as he works out that fastball, he becomes an elite reliever, without question. Because then the slider looks like this:

Maples wound up going 2.0 scoreless innings last night, allowing no hits and striking out three. True to form, he also walked two, threw a wild pitch, and hit a batter. So much talent to be harnessed.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.