MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 8: Scott Diamond #58 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the second inning on May 8, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Prospect of the Day: Scott Diamond, LHP, Minnesota Twins
2012 has been a difficult season for the Minnesota Twins, but one of the few bright spots is lefty Scott Diamond, who has emerged as the only reliable starting pitcher on the roster. Although he has exceeded rookie qualifications and is no longer technically a prospect, Diamond deserves some attention and is our topic for today's Prospect of the Day.
Diamond is a Canadian, but pitched college ball at the University of Binghamton in New York. He had a solid season as a junior in 2007, posting a 3.45 ERA with a sharp 42/16 K/BB ratio in 63 innings, but nobody drafted him. He pitched very well in summer college ball, thriving in the Coastal Plains League, and the Atlanta Braves signed him as a free agent late that summer, giving him a $50,000 bonus, which is a lot of money for an undrafted guy.
Diamond had an excellent 2008 season, going 15-3 with a 2.89 ERA and a 123/39 K/BB in 153 innings in Low-A and High-A, allowing 142 hits and just eight homers. He didn't burn radar guns, but his performance was notable and earned him a shot in Double-A for 2009. Lack of run support and shaky defense behind him resulted in a 5-10 record in 23 starts for Mississippi, but he posted a 3.50 ERA with a 111/53 K/BB. He returned to the Southern League to begin 2010 and performed similarly, with a 3.52 ERA and a 90/39 K/BB in 102 innings, then moved up to Triple-A in the second half and went 4-1, 3.36 with a 33/15 K/BB in 56 innings.
Although now firmly on the radar, the pitching-rich Braves didn't have room for him and he was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 2010 Rule 5 draft. He didn't make the major league roster, but the Twins liked him and arranged a trade, shipping hard-throwing right-hander Billy Bullock to Atlanta in exchange for Diamond. He struggled last season, going 4-14, 5.56 in Triple-A with 158 hits allowed in 123 innings, although he still posted a good 90/36 K/BB. He made seven starts for the desperate Twins last year, going 1-5, 5.08 with a 19/17 K/BB and 51 hits allowed in 39 innings.
Diamond has been much more effective this spring, going 4-1, 2.60 in six Triple-A starts with a 26/7 K/BB in 35 innings, then 6-3, 2.67 in 10 major league starts, with a 37/9 K/BB in 64 innings, 70 hits allowed, and a 2.29 GO/AO.
A 6-3, 220 pound left-handed hitter and thrower, Diamond was born July 30, 1986 in Guelph, Ontario (population 121,688). His fastball isn't especially fast, running at 85-92 MPH and averaging 89.4 this year, although that's slightly higher than the 88.8 mark he posted last season. He mixes in a curveball and changeup, with scouts generally preferring the curve among his secondary pitches, rating it a plus pitch at times.
Diamond has added a cut fastball this spring, reducing usage of his changeup and traditional slider. Although not a strikeout artist, he is throwing slightly harder this year and all of his pitches seem a bit crisper than in the past, helping him generate ground balls at a considerably higher rate than last season, his ground ball percentage going from 46.2 in 2011 to 59.5 this year. The cutter/curve combination has proven very useful.
Although scouts believe Diamond has made real progress, it seems likely that his 2.67 ERA will regress, at least if his 4.13 FIP and 3.52 xFIP are fair indicators. That said, even adding a run or more to his ERA would still make him the best starter the Twins have right now. Overall, Diamond has gone 7-8, 3.58 in 17 major league starts, with a 111 ERA+ and a 56/26 K/BB ratio. He's not a spectacular pitcher, but he throws strikes, keeps the ball down, and gives his team a chance to win. That's a nice return for an undrafted free agent and Rule 5 pick.