Dillon Maples, P
Age 21 (5/9/1992)
2013 Teams: Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, (A); Boise Hawks, Northwest League, (SS)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—# 26
How acquired—Drafted in the 14th round in 2011, #429 overall
Prior to Cubs
A decorated amateur, Maples was a member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team, allowing one run in 10 IP during the 2010 Baseball World Championships. His draft stock rose his senior year recording 143 strikeouts in 68.2 innings as he went 9-1 with a 0.92 ERA at Pinecrest High School, NC. He also wasn't bad with the stick, hitting .431/632/.877 with 7 HR, 31 RBI, 10 SB, and 19 runs as he was named Gatorade North Carolina HIgh School Player of the Year. His athletic talent wasn't limited to the baseball diamond as he was a high-school All-American kicker and was on his way to North Carolina as a two-sport star for the Tar Heels. Maples was on the campus of North Carolina trying to earn the kicking job for the football team when the Cubs signed the pitcher to a record $2.5 million bonus on Aug. 15.
Due to his late signing date, Maples did make his pro debut until 2012 and that came after an arm injury delayed his debut. After turning pro, Maples didn't follow the prescribed throwing program during the off-season and came to spring training with arm issues. He didn't get on the mound until July 29, allowing a run on a hit and two walks vs. Reds. He appeared in six games for Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League, with a line of 10.1 IP, 6H, 7R, 10 BB 12K.
Maples was working in extended spring training, and would have more than likely started the season in Boise, but an injury to Felix Pena in Kane County and another arm injury for Josh Conway, opened the door for Maples to head to Kane County. With only 10 pro innings under his belt, Maples made his MWL debut on May 12 allowing six hits and three runs in five innings at Clinton. It was his only start without a walk. After struggling with his command—walking 31 batters in 34.2 innings—Maples (0-2 8.31 ERA, 34 K) was sent to Boise in July.
Maples improved under pitching coach Dave Rosario, and while it wasn't anything to tweet about, his walk rate did drop for 8.0 to 4.1 per nine. Maples made nine starts, posting a 5-2 record and a 2.14 ERA. He logged 42 innings with 41 strikeouts and didn't allow a homer. He capped off the year with one of his best career outings, winning Game 1 of the NWL finals against Vancouver. He pitched a career-high 6.1 shutout innings and matched his career-high with seven strikeouts.
Maples should return to Kane County and be part of an impressive young rotation. The ball really jumps out of his hand and gets on the hitter quickly. He posses two plus pitches but his ability to repeat his delivery and command of his pitches was his demon in the MWL. His mid-90s fastball and sharp-breaking curve, and the fact he's still just 21, are both in Maples' favor as he pushes towards the majors.
Ryan McNeil, P
Age 20 (2/1/1994)
2013 Team: None.
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—Not rated
How acquired—Drafted in the third round in 2012, #101 overall
Prior to Cubs
McNeil made a name for himself at Nipomo HIgh School in California, as a four-year starter, finishing his final two years on the mound with a 1.26 ERA, recording 178 strikeouts in 122.1 innings. He played in the 2011 Area Code Games and was selected as a 2011 AFLAC All-American. As a junior, he complied a 1.70 ERA with 84 strikeouts to just 23 walks. He went 7-1 to help lead the Titans to the co-championship, while racking up eight complete games and four shutouts. He was named a 2010 All-CIF Southern Section Division 5 first-team selection and was named to the Perfect Game All-American Classic. He had individual workouts with Minnesota and St. Louis prior to the draft.
Here's what Scout.com had to say about the right-hander before the 2012 draft, "Working from a full wind-up, McNeil is very advanced in terms of his delivery. He repeats well and attacks the zone with his bowling ball sinking fastball. Working steadily at 91-92 and cranking it up to 93 at times. McNeil ties hitters up routinely and produces ground balls. His breaking ball flashes average but is inconsistent at this point at 76-78 and he has the tendency to telegraph it. His moving fastball is a huge strength right now by the secondary pitches need development."
The fact McNeil had a baseball scholarship to join his brother, Jeff, at Long Beach State didn't deter the Cubs from taking the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder with their third-round pick. He eventually signed on July 3 for a reported $425,000 and headed to the Arizona Rookie League, making his pro debut on July 24 against the Indians. Its not surprising the 18-year-old had some nerves, allowing six hits and a pair of runs in 2.2 innings in two games. He was able to make adjustments and pitched well his final six appearances. Throwing on four days rest, McNeal got into a groove issuing only one run in his final 17.1 innings. He yielded 13 hits during that span but gave up nine free passes. In his final game of the season, he silenced the Giants bats in four hitless innings and ended the year with a 1.35 ERA, second best among 2012 draft picks.
McNeil was injured during extended spring training, had Tommy John surgery, and missed the entire season. Spent the summer and fall rehabbing in Mesa.
McNeil will be looking to get back on the mound sometime during 2014 as he recovers from surgery and finally gets his career in gear. He may get a few innings in Mesa and the best case scenario has the right-hander pitching for Boise in the NWL. Before the injury his fastball had been clocked in the low 90s but he's learning location is more important than speed. He also throws a slider and change-up.
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