As the 2012 season approaches, Cubbies Crib is profiling each and every member of the Cubs forty man roster. Today, we are talking about Rafael Dolis.
Rafael Dolis got a very small taste of the majors at the end of 2011, facing four batters and striking out one. Clearly, his goals for 2012 have to include the majors in some capacity. This season could provide Dolis with more than just an opportunity to make the major league roster, however. He can realistically set his sights on not only pitching in Wrigley, but emerging as the team’s closer and stepping onto the national stage as one of baseball’s youngest stars.
Dolis made four starts for the Tennessee Smokies before moving to the bullpen full time. He quickly established himself as the team’s closer, earning 17 saves. Dolis successfully avoids the long ball, surrendering just two home runs in over 70 innings pitched. While his strikeout rate did decline from 2011, I think that has more to do with the way he was approaching hitters than with his stuff. His hits per nine plummeted in 2011, taking his WHIP down with it, strongly suggesting that his strategy as a pitcher had changed. Baseball America confirmed this in their 2012 Prospect Handbook. They also note that if his command continues to improve, Dolis could become a closer.
Dolis has everything a team could want in a closer. He throws hard, avoids home runs, induces lots of ground balls, and can rear back and strike guys out when the situation calls for it. Since he is a late conversion to the mound, it isn’t impossible that he will get even better as he gains a better feel for pitching over the coming seasons. I think Dolis has a great chance to earn a 25-man roster slot out of spring training. If that happens, he will get to learn the finer points of major league pitching from Kerry Wood, with whom he will share 7th and 8th inning duties. If Marmol struggles or is traded, as many expect, Dolis could be logical candidate to take over the ninth.