Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
Dominic Leone was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays in November 2016. He was optioned to Buffalo at the end of Spring Training, recalled before Opening Day, then optioned and recalled again in rapid succession a week later. Leone pitched in ten games in April, totalling 11 1/3 innings, and six runs allowed for a monthly ERA of 4.76. Half of those runs came in the same game – a disastrous 4-hit, 2-homer, 1/3-inning outing against the Rays on April 28th. For the remainder of the season, he never allowed more than one earned run in a game again.
Over 13 1/3 innings in May, Leone allowed five earned runs (and two unearned), tallying an ERA of 3.38. He allowed more walks than the previous month, but fewer hits. He was optioned to Buffalo at the end of May, only to reappear in the majors a week later. He pitched his longest outing of the season – 3 innings – on June 16th, allowing one run on two hits and a walk as the Jays were blown out by the White Sox. He finished June with a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings, with just seven hits allowed and 17 strikeouts.
In July, Leone again made a trip to the minors, but his big-league ERA sank below 3.00 and remained there for the duration of the season. He threw 9 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and four walks. In fact, he didn’t give up a run until his final outing of the month – he’d had an 11-game scoreless streak before then. By August, having established himself as one of the more reliable Blue Jays relievers, the right-hander saw increased game time. In 15 1/3 innings, he allowed four runs and earned his season-high monthly strikeout total, with 22. On August 16th, he entered a game with the bases loaded and one out, then quickly got two outs (including a strikeout) to preserve a one-run lead.
He continued to be excellent through the end of the season, including a 2.25 ERA in 8 innings in September. He only walked two batters in each of the final two months of the season, putting his walk total for the season at 23. A total of 81 strikeouts gave him a K/BB rate of 3.52. Leone finished the season with 70 1/3 innings pitched, a WHIP of 1.05 and an ERA of 2.56. All three numbers were career bests.
A virtual unknown in Toronto prior to this season, Leone was a pleasant surprise. According to Baseball Reference WAR, Leone was the 6th most valuable player on the Blue Jays in 2017, with a mark of 2.2. He was the 3rd most valuable pitcher, behind only Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ – making him the team’s most valuable reliever.
Leone avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays, agreeing to a $1.085 million salary for the coming season. He will be under team control until 2022, when he becomes a free agent.
Regular Season Grades:
Jay Blue: A
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