Prospect Dozier offers vision of hope to Twins' struggling offense
Twins' Brian Dozier has middling power and speed but brings a sharp batting eye
Ernesto Frieri's 11.5 K/9 is fifth among active pitchers with at least 100 innings
Dale Thayer has saved at least 17 games in six of nine minor league seasons
The Twins have a new shortstop, San Diego's system has produced not one, but two newly-minted potential Southern California closers, and up the coast the Giants are trying to replace the Kung Fu Panda, all in this week's Who's He?
In an epic slump at the plate after being no-hit and one-hit in the same week, the Twins have turned to their shortstop of the future to try to jump start an anemic offense. Dozier, 24, was recalled from Triple A Rochester with Justin Morneau headed to the DL and starting shortstop Jamey Carroll shifted into a more familiar utility role. A marginal prospect while in the low minors, Dozier arrives in Minneapolis less than a year removed from High A in the Florida State League. While this is an important move for the Twins, who are 70-118 since winning the AL Central in 2010, the immediate fantasy ramifications are limited at best. Dozier has limited power (one home run every 102.1 minor league plate appearances), adequate speed (13 steals in 106 games above Class A), but hits well (.305/.379/.416). The Twins are committed to him, which makes him one of the more interesting players on a seemingly hopeless roster ready for restructuring.
There have been few bleaker places in the fantasy baseball world than the Angels bullpen this year. Jordan Walden was yanked from the closer's job due to ineptitude. Veteran lefty Scott Downs, Walden's replacement, was sidelined by a knee contusion. And the third man down the totem pole, LaTroy Hawkins, was placed on the disabled list with a broken pinkie. That leaves the newly-acquired Frieri as the best bet for the scant few save opportunities the Angels' anemic offense can produce. Obtained in a trade for undersized infield prospect Alexi Amarista and minor league sinkerballer Donn Roach, Frieri made a good first impression on his new team, striking out the side while walking one in his Halos debut. He has a career rate of 11.5 K/9, which ranks fifth among all active pitchers with at least 100 innings (Top 4: Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson, Brad Lidge, Carlos Marmol). Although he also walks a lot of batters, too -- ranking 19th in the same group with 4.73 walks per nine -- his ability to miss bats makes him an interesting pickup not only for the short haul, but also in a keeper league way. If he's available in your AL-only league, it's time to pounce. And if you're in a mixed league with a relief spot to fill, he's someone to consider.
In need of a six-to-eight week replacement for Pablo Sandoval, who broke the hamate bone in his left hand, the Giants summoned Gillaspie from Triple A Fresno, where he was among the Pacific Coast leaders in batting (.362), on-base percentage (.417) and runs scored (21). However, like any other call-up from the PCL, you have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. Four years removed from his first taste of big league action as a newly drafted 21-year old, Gillaspie, who turns 25 in July, has slogged through the Giants system since, delayed by a less-than-impressive .420 slugging percentage. Prior to his call though, he managed to slug .521 this year, ranking 23rd in the power-happy league (but behind the underwhelming likes of Max Ramirez, Justin Ruggiano and Scott Moore). He's a classic case of someone who will get your fantasy team at-bats, a manageable average, a few runs and a few RBIs but little else. He can be overlooked in mixed leagues and is only worth a flier in the deepest of NL-only circuits.
Few teams are as well stocked with closer candidates as the Padres with flame-throwing Andrew Cashner and the usually ultra-effective Luke Gregerson (and, until last week, the aforementioned Ernesto Frieri) in the ranks. When Huston Street went down with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle under his throwing arm it was assumed that one of the two would get the saves chances. Enter Thayer, 31, who pitched in the minors for the past decade with a major league cup of coffee sprinkled in over the past four seasons. What makes him unique is that he's been a closer two thirds of his minor league career, saving at least 17 games in six of his nine full seasons on the farm. In his first four seasons in the Padres system, he averaged 25.5 saves per year and was once seen as a possible in-house successor to Trevor Hoffman. But he never got a call to the majors before being sent to Tampa Bay as the player to be named later for Russell Branyan. He spent four years in the Rays system and another with the Mets before returning to the organization that signed the former All America from Chico State as a free agent after a tryout.
Given the chance, Thayer can do the job. He's been successful in the role on every level, but wins come few and far between for the Friars, and Street is not likely to be out for much more than the minimum 15 days of his disabled list stay. With Gregerson well-suited for setup man duties, Cashner not yet ready for a full-time closer's load and Street rumored to be on the block to one of the many teams in need of late-inning bullpen help, stranger things have happened. That makes Thayer a low leverage, short-term risk if you have an empty roster spot to fill.
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