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Padres' Dale Thayer Is Probably the Best Reliever You've Likely Never Heard Of

Getty Images The San Diego Padres have a surplus of pitching within their organization. From t...

Getty Images
The San Diego Padres have a surplus of pitching within their organization. From top to bottom, there’s always a top pitching prospect waiting in the wings.

The assumption is that most of this pitching has been accumulated from the massive amounts of trades they have made over the past couple of years, but Dale Thayer doesn’t fall into this category.

Thayer’s minor league stats remain to be touched. Very few players have amassed better stats at the levels than he has. He boasts a 2.45 ERA lifetime in ten seasons in the minors, and his K/9 rate checks in at 8.8/9 over that span. However, ten seasons in the minors is awfully extensive, especially considering his above average numbers.

However, his numbers have yet to translate to the major leagues. Trust me, he has received plenty of chances to prove that he can write that ship, but he’s yet to do so. So when he gets his chances, he doesn’t seem to make much of them, ultimately leading to a demotion. Most prospects who bloom in the minors and post stellar numbers generally don’t stick in the minors for long. Thayer, though, is quite the opposite.

In his first season in the bigs (13.2 innings), he posted a 4.61 ERA. In 2010 (2 innings), he recorded a 27.00 ERA. Obviously the small of a sample size put a number on that inflated ERA, but it also said that he wasn’t ready. At that point he was 29 years-old, too, so his time to prove his case was and still is minimal.

After appearing in just 12 innings over the course of two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Mets rolled the dice on the unproven veteran, signing him to a minor-league contract. Thayer’s stint with the Mets didn’t last very long, despite owning respectable numbers (3.48 ERA in 11 games). He just didn’t replicate consistency, and quite frankly, his former teams had better alternatives than him.

Now, he provides his services to the Padres. And the Padres might’ve signed him at the right time since he’s turned the corner of late. In fact, he’s fixtured himself into the closer’s role lately. Thayer saved two games in August, and has appeared in 10.1 innings.

Considering that he only logged 12 innings in two seasons, the increase in games is a substantial jump for him. On the other side of the coin, the surge in appearances could steer its way to fatigue if he’s pushed too hard. Who knows where fatigue could lead him. My best guess is back to the minor leagues.

Now, it’s just a matter of time before he spoils his chance at making something of his opportunity with the Padres, right? If you want to fixate yourself in trends, then that seems like a logical prediction. Thayer is a changed pitcher, however. The change may have come a little too late. But hey, it’s still positive.

While he’s always been a power thrower, he’s throwing his fastball with more life (94 MPH) this season, which is drawing more swings and misses as his 17.5 strikeout percentage with the fastball is a career high at the major league level. In addition, he’s rediscovered new life in his slider. So, it looks like he could potentially stick in the majors. Maybe not as a closer, but as a solid relief pitcher.

Other reason to think that Thayer couldn’t be a closer with the Padres, is the fact that San Diego just extended Huston Street through 2014. But the possibility of him being trade bait isn’t out of the question, either. Realistically, Thayer could occasionally close games to give Street a breather.

The thing is, Thayer isn’t your ordinary prospect. His age (31), is something that will be a flaw even if he ever stabilizes his feet long enough in the majors. Granted, he still has a decent amount of energy left in the tank, but that isn’t a ton. Simply, he’s not a long-term answer in the Padres ‘pen. Even if he looks like the second coming of Goose Gosage.

Thayer at the end of the day represents a nice baseball story. Barring something peculiar, he will remain in the Padres bullpen for the remainder of the season. Depending on his success, he might have seen his last days in the minor leagues.

This article was originally published at MLB Reports. 

MLB Reports is a partner of FootBasket. You can see more about them at their website. Follow them on Twitter @MLBReports

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