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What To Expect: Justin Dowdy

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For most of last season the Wingnuts were a closer short of being a complete team. They went through a few options and seemed to have their guy when they acquired Joe D’Alessandro in the middle of the season. But Joe-D didn’t quite pan out despite being electric at times, and Wichita went back to the drawing board.

Then in mid-August July, Wichita finally got the lockdown ninth-inning guy it was looking for when it traded for Shreveport’s Justin Dowdy. After being released by the Oakland Athletics early in 2009, where he pitched for Double-A Midland, the left-handed Dowdy joined the American Association and dominated the Southern Division. He was an All-Star for the Captains, notching 13 saves with a 2.37 ERA.

It appeared as if Dowdy could go the way of the Wingnuts closers before him and become a disappointment after he took the loss in his first appearance on Aug. 18. But Dowdy righted himself, earning a save in his next four games and not allowing a run in his final five outings.

Listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, the 26-year-old Dowdy has an intimidating presence that belies his tiny frame. He’s tatted up, smokes cigarettes outside the clubhouse and just looks rough and mean, like you would want your closer to look. He’s also armed with a high-80s fastball that has helped him strike out 9.1 batters per nine innings during his professional career.

Dowdy has pitched in five affiliated organizations, having some success in a variety of roles. But he has only a handful of appearances above Double-A; he doesn’t throw hard enough to be a closer on the upper levels of affiliated ball and he lacks the secondary pitches and deception needed to be an effective situational guy.

He has a ton of value to an independent team, though. Case in point his 2007 season, when he pitched in the United League and struck out 102 batters and allowed 21 hits in 52 2/3 innings. He’s highly unlikely to put up those numbers in the American Association. Still, a full season of Dowdy will greatly benefit the Wingnuts, who seem to be putting together a stout bullpen. If he can limit his walks (3.9 per nine innings last season), his potential in this league is unlimited.

Season projection: 44 games, 49 innings, 36 hits, 12 earned runs, 2.45 ERA, 1-1 record, 21 saves, 19 walks, 53 strikeouts.