Scott Diamond Sparkles for Twins

Minnesota Twins NewsChances are, unless you follow the Minnesota Twins, Scott Diamond is the best starting pitcher in 2012 whose name you don’t know.

The 26-year-old Canadian left-hander totes a 10-5 record and a tidy 2.91 ERA to the mound tonight against Tampa Bay. Likely, Target Field is the only ballpark in the majors where most fans don’t exclaim, “Scott Who?”

Undrafted by the Atlanta Braves out of SUNY-Binghamton in 2007, Diamond was plucked by the Twins in 2010 as a Rule 5 draft pick. The Guelph, Ontario native posted impressive numbers in the minors – finishing 2008 with a 15-3 record and a 2.89 ERA between two Single-A affiliates, recording a 3.50 ERA at Double-A in 2009 and then logging a 3.46 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2010. Yet the Braves decided not to protect Diamond, so the Twins pounced.

A prototypical Twins starting pitcher who minimizes walks and gets ground balls, Diamond is a prime example of how Major League pitchers can thrive without velocity as long as they keep hitters off balance and showcase command.

His two-seam and four seam fast balls typically never exceed 90. His change-up often ranges from 83-84, which does not offer much separation from his fast ball. Diamond does possess a plus curve ball, but he is not a strikeout pitcher, as his 62 Ks in 114.1 innings this year suggest.

Even though none of his pitches are overpowering, Diamond consistently gets outs, at least this season. MLB’s Pitch F/X data shows that just six starters in the majors induce a higher percentage of ground balls than Diamond (who number is 56 percent). The same information indicates that only eight starting pitchers have delivered more offerings in the strike zone. Of his 1,614 pitches in 2012, Diamond has missed above the strike zone only six percent of the time.

Diamond earned an engineering degree from SUNY-Binghamton, and he applies his analytical mind to pitching. He voraciously studies hitters tendencies on video and from the dugout, and envisions adjustments they might make. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says that Diamond asks for the opposing team’s lineup card early on days when he starts so he can mentally prepare for each hitter he will face.

The path of an undrafted free agent pitcher who does not feature a dominant fast ball is often perilous. Diamond was 4-14 with a 5.56 ERA in 23 starts at Triple-A Rochester last year and struggled to a 1-5 mark with a 5.08 ERA in seven starts with the Twins.

This season has produced more favorable results. Diamond opened the season at Rochester, where he was 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA in six starts. He made his season debut for the Twins on May 8 when he limited the Angels to no runs and four hits over seven innings, earning the win. In his next start, he blanked the Blue Jays on five hits through seven innings. In those first two outings, he had 10 strikeouts and just one walk. On July 27, Diamond tossed a complete game shutout against the Indians.

Ravaged by injuries, the Twins are 49-63 and building for the future. Ideally, Diamond will settle into a middle of the rotation role when the club gets more starting pitching depth, but right now he is the staff ace, proving the a Major Leaguer does not have to touch 95 to turn his career around.

 


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