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We continue to look at the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays by looking at an outfielder who was considered one of the Jays’ best relievers: Rafael Dolis.
Dolis was an international free agent signed by the Cubs in 2004 and, though he missed the entire 2008 season due to injury, he posed strong numbers, particularly after he went into the bullpen in 2011 at the Double-A level. He reached the big leagues that year, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings and got into 34 games in the major leagues in 2012, posting a 6.39 ERA and 1.66 WHIP with just 24 strikeouts and 23 walks. He got into five games with better results in 2013 but didn’t distinguish himself in a larger sample size in the minors and was granted free agency that offseason. He signed with the Giants but was released in May of 2014 and caught on with the Tigers for 2015, posting high walk rates for year in Triple-A. He was released in the offseason (after re-signing on a minor league deal) in order to sign in Japan, leading him to the next chapter of his career, reinventing himself.
Dolis went to Japan in 2016 and was excellent for Hanshin, pitching in 2016 through 2019, throwing 265 2/3 innings with a 2.44 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, striking out 284 batters and walking just 80, well down from the rates he showed in the minors.
The Blue Jays were hoping that the development he showed in Japan stuck as he returned to North America with a $1 million contract with Toronto. Dolis came into spring training and allowed just two hits without walking anyone and striking out three in three innings before things were shut down.
Dolis started the season pitching in the late innings, in higher leverage situations. He was one of the most relied-upon relievers for the Blue Jays, pitching 24 times and getting 24 innings with a 1.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, striking out 11.6 batters per nine innings (31 in total) while walking 5.3 batters per nine (a fairly high total). Dolis was especially effective in September, pitching eight times without giving up an earned run while earning four saves.
According to Baseball Savant, Dolis averaged 95 mph on his fastball (that he threw 61% of the time) while his slider was right about average velocity and his changeup was a bit harder than average. That said, his rankings of things like Exit Velocity (92%), Hard Hit % (93%), expected ERA, Batting Average and slugging percentage (75%, 96% and 87% respectively) were outstanding, as his whiff rate was in the 75th percentile and his fastball velocity was in the 76th percentile.
Dolis was one of the Jays’ most reliable relievers in 2020 and he was effective through the season and in different bullpen roles. The Blue Jays have exercised the option on his contract for 2021, and will pay him just $1.5 million for the next season. Having him in the bullpen is a great deal for the Jays, if he continues to be effective.
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