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March 2012

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Rafael Dolis: Where Did You Come From?

Written by , Posted in General

If you would have asked me at the end of the season to predict the bullpen for the 2012 season opener, I don’t know that Rafael Dolis would have been on my list. A good spring showing combined with his high ceiling has him in the mix, but who is he and where did he come from?

Who Is Rafael Dolis? – Since most are probably not familiar with who Dolis is, it’s important that we get a quick scouting report on him. This comes from the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

The Cubs love to try failed position players on the mound, and their success stories include former catchers Carlos Marmol and Randy Wells. They originally signed Dolis as a shortstop but made him a pitcher before he arrived in the United States in 2006. He hurt his elbow in 2007 and missed 2008 following Tommy John surgery, then claimed a spot on the 40-man roster by hitting 101 mph during instructional league in 2009. Dolis reminds scouts of Marmol, and the similarities became more striking when he became a full-time reliever in 2011. He can make hitters look silly with two pitches, a 93-100 mph fastball with heavy sink and a mid-80’s slider with hard bite. His stuff theoretically should have played up in shorter stints, but Dolis’ strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 5.9 per nine innings. That’s because he focused so much on his command, his biggest shortcoming, that he pounded the bottom of the strike zone and generated tons of ground outs rather than strikeouts. He has a clean high three-quarters delivery that gives him good downward plane with his pitches, but he still needs to throw more strikes. A potential closer if he improves his command, Dolis made his major league debut in late September. He figures to get some Triple-A experience at the start of 2012.

The most exciting parts of that report to me are the velocity as well as the three-quarters delivery. A flamethrower that can get ground balls and can strike guys out. His development could lessen the blow of losing Andrew Cashner, who many thought might end up replacing Marmol in the closer role. This year the bullpen is wide open so there are spots to earn, especially those at the end of the game. We’ve not seen how Svuem uses his relief pitchers as of yet, so it’s hard to make a prediction as to what role Dolis will be used. Even the projections don’t quite know what to do with him. One even predicts him for 12 starts.

I’m not putting a lot of expectations on him. His ceiling is high, but the experience is low. Patience will be the key, but I like the upside.

  • Buddy

    I hope you’re right about his upside. Right now he just looks like another wild reliever who throws hard.  Here’s hoping he develops!

  • Noah_I

    Good analysis on Dolis. If he gets the control down, he could be special in a late innings bullpen role. If he doesn’t, he’s probably the type of middle reliever who will look unhittable one week and miserable the next.

  • BLPCB

    Could we possibly unload Marmol if this guy develops?

    • Noah_I

      Unloading Marmol will be more a matter of being able to receive value in return for him and/or being able to get rid of most of Marmol’s contract.  I don’t think the Cubs really expect Marmol, who will be a free agent after the ’13 season, to get another contract from the team.  But in a perfect world, yes, but 2014 or so Dolis would be closer, potentially earlier.

    • You never know.  We haven’t stuck it to the Orioles in a while, and Kevin Gregg is getting old…

  • Doc Raker

    His strike out rate went down because his control got better, stayed low in the strike zone and produced ground ball outs instead of strike outs………..I will take the ground ball outs……..what’s the problem? A potential closer if he improves his command……sounds like Carlos Marmol. Dolis should be fun to follow as he make his way to Wrigley.

  • Jedi

    I remember him as that guy we called up in September so he could make exactly one appearance on a crappy team!  Would love to see him in extended MLB duty.

    • Who could forget that appearance?  Breaking stuff, fastballs…it had it all!

      • Jedi

        Apparently he couldn’t be used until Clevenger got in a game also – I think Quade had them down as some sort of package deal.

  • Chuck

    This is a player that inspires the ultimate question “Who dat?” when he first appears in a game.  A guy you never knew was on the roster and you have no idea who he is at first.

    • Noah_I

      But isn’t that true for most players who are just coming up to the majors except for a few big time prospects?  A lot of Cub fans will probably respond to the first time they see Trey McNutt, who has been a fairly big prospect since the middle of 2010, by saying, “he has a funny name.” 

      I was at a Saturday game in the bleachers with my wife (then fiancee) back in ’09 on the Saturday of the Air & Water Show Weekend, so it was a big tourist weekend in Chicago.  The number of players that I heard other people say “who is that?” about was mind boggling.  Or mind bottling, depending on if you like Blades of Glory or not.

  • Doc Raker

    I was at Wrigley in 1999 when the air show was in town. Fighter jets flew flag pole to flag pole at the height of the scroeboard, did an airbreak and shot up into the sky like it was a cartoon- it was surreal. They continued to buzz the stadium all game long. What fun.

  • Lizzie

    Never fails I would always forget when the Air Show was in town, meaning I would really forget a few days prior when they’d start practicing and the bombers would buzz by the office buildings downtown. It’s kind of eerie since Sept 11, especially for visitors and the newly employed. Just another tiny reason I’m thankful to work from home nowadays.

    • Doc Raker

      Isn’t it ironic that one of the biggest machines built by man flys in the air?

  • //Dolis reminds scouts of Marmol,//
    I was at the game today, (Wednesday 28 March) and Rafael Dolis reminded me of Carlos Marmol.  Mr. Dolis was called upon to close for the Cubs in the top of the ninth.  The Cubs entered the inning with a 2-0 lead.

    Mr. Dolis got the first batter out, then walked two in a row.  Seemed like he just couldn’t find the strike zone.

    At that point I was experiencing Deja Vu, the feeling that Mr. Dolis was taking a page from “The 9th Inning Play Book”, authored by Carlos Marmol.  

    Steve Clevenger went to the mound to calm Rafael down, and it worked.  He got the next two batters out.

    Shades of Carlos Marmol.

    Go, Cubs Go, indeed!