That, my friends, is Dale Thayer. The career minor league closer is looking more and more like a possible solution to some of our bullpen woes. The RHP has been a closer for the majority of his professional career. He has been a reliever the entire time having never started a game. He has had success at every level.
After signing as an undrafted free-agent out of Chico State by the Padres in 2003, Thayer started at the Padres A-ball affiliate in the Midwest league. He began racking the saves up there (25). He went to pitch in A+ and AA in 2004 and collected 23 more saves (all at A+). Since then he has continued to have success using a low-nineties fastball, slider, curve, and change to some impressive totals. Here are some key statistics by level:
Last year in Durham, Thayer had a spectacular year. His FIP was slightly lower than his ERA (2.56 to 2.77) likely due to a high BABIP (.353). The following table shows what he has done in some important metrics since joining the Rays in 2006.
Lastly, what does Thayer project to do in the Rays bullpen this year? Let's take a look at his MLEs from the last two years courtesy of minorleaguesplits.com.
Looking at his year last year, his FIP would have been good for 4th best on the team behind Balfour, Niemann, and Miller. If he can come close to that, say a 4 FIP, then he could be around the fifth or sixth best arm in the bullpen. While he may not be the closer of the future, Dale Thayer could certainly offer some additional bullpen help and would almost certainly be an upgrade over Wheeler and Percival.