If only he threw more strikes.
Baseball America found that 63 pitchers in Minor League Baseball were clocked at 100 mph or greater on a radar gun in 2018, the lowest total in at least three years. Dillon Maples was the sole Cubs minor leaguer to hit the mystical triple-digits.
Baseball America has compiled this list for each of the past three years and also in 2014. For the first time on their records, the number of pitchers with a 100 mph fastball went down. In 2017, a whopping 81 pitchers hit 100 mph including three Cubs pitchers: Maples, James Norwood and Justin Hancock. In 2016, 71 pitchers hit 100. While no list was compiled in 2015, 51 pitchers hit 100 in 2014.
The Padres led the minors with six pitchers in triple digits. The Rangers had five and four teams had four, including White Sox and former Cubs prospect Dylan Cease. Seven teams did not have any pitcher hit 100 mph.
All of these radar gun readings come from scouts or front office personnel using their own radar gun or TrackMan technology. None of them come from stadium radar guns, which tend to run “hot” in order to excite fans in the stands.
Baseball America also noted that for the first time since 2010, the average fastball velocity in the major leagues did not increase in 2018. It didn’t decrease either, staying the same at 92.8 mph. But they speculate it may be a sign that baseball’s velocity explosion may be cresting. Or it could just be an aberration. But it is definitely worth watching going forward.
Maples pitched 38⅔ innings over 41 appearances for Triple-A Iowa in 2018. In that time, he struck out a whopping 75 batters. Unfortunately, he also walked over a batter an inning with 39 free passes. Still, because hitters could only manage a weak .162 batting average off of Maples when they didn’t walk, he was able to post a 2.79 ERA and 10 saves in 12 opportunities.
In the majors, Maples threw just 5⅓ innings over nine appearances. Six of those appearances were solid with no runs and no hits allowed. Three of them were pretty awful. That led to a ERA in the majors of 11.81. He struck out nine batters in those 5⅓ innings and walked five. He also hit two batters.
When you combine Maples’ triple-digit heat with his hard slider that appears to take a right-turn mid-flight, you can understand why the Cubs have hopes that Maples could turn into a major force in the back of the bullpen. But none of that will happen unless Maples learns to throw the ball over the plate more often. He’s certainly someone that new mental skills coordinator Bob Tewksbury will want to work with closely in Spring Training.