Padres Prospect Report: Dale Thayer

Two hours plus into a baseball game, the bullpen is active. The team has the lead and the adrenaline is just starting to pump. The precision begins as Dale Thayer grabs his mitt and tucks his hair under his hat en route to the bullpen mound to warm up. He checks the strings on his Rawlings, gives one a tug with his teeth and grabs a ball. A few minutes later, his name is called upon to close out the game. Such is the life of a gifted closer in the San Diego Padres Minor League system.

Dale Thayer was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Chico State (a California State school) prior to the 2003 season. He was a second team All American coming out of Chico as a reliever.

"Dale Thayer is one of those guys that the Padres organization is blessed at every level with great closers," one Padres scout tells us. "You never know which one of these guys is going be the guy to really take over that role in the Major Leagues so it is hard to project Dale as getting there with San Diego. He throws pretty well. Another guy that has a great baseball mentality. He just doesn't let stuff bother him.

"In a baseball sense, not in a life sense, he is just dumb enough to be really good. ‘Ok, the games over, I gave it up today. Oh well, there is tomorrow.'"

Not a glowing endorsement for Thayer, but he benefits from the loss of Rusty Tucker to Tommy John surgery.

Thayer had a product year for Fort Wayne by simply overpower hitters, striking out 72 in 48 innings.

"Dale is just that happy go lucky guy," Terry Byrom of the Fort Wayne Wizards said. "I think it suits either a setup or closer perfectly. He had a pretty lively fastball and threw a cutter or a slider."

His fastball tops out in the low 90's and is his best pitch. At 22, he was old for the Wizards, but the early showing was impressive. Thayer allowed just 11 earned runs on the season and his WHIP was an incredible 0.96 as he allowed just 35 hits and 15 walks. His strikeout to walk ratio was a dominating 5-to-1.

Thayer was named to the Midwest League mid-season and post-season All-Star team, while also being named the best reliever in the Midwest League.

At the halfway point with the Wizards, Thayer was sporting an ERA in the 1.50 range, prompting his move to the closer's role.

"He just got guys out," Bryom said. "At some point, you pay attention to that. And that is what happened here. In his setup role at the beginning of the season, and he was actually the seventh inning guy and he kept getting guys out day after day, game after game and it is like, ‘well wait a second maybe we need to reevaluate'.

"So the Padres decided to give this guy a look. Till he got hurt, he was the best closer in the league."

In total, Thayer saved 25 games, while pitching in 45 with a 2.06 ERA.

Thayer suffered a knee injury and was placed on the disabled list with a week to go in the season. His prognosis is good for spring training.

"He is ok," said Byrom. "I don't anything was going to be a problem for spring training."

Having just turned 23 in December, Thayer has some catching up to do and will head to Lake Elsinore. His health will be big to his development. The uncertainty of others ahead of him has opened a door.

If he continues his success, Thayer projects as a setup man in the Majors.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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