Name: Thomas Diamond
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: April 6, 1983
With the Rangers' selection of right-handed pitcher Thomas Diamond in the 2004 MLB Draft, it marked the second consecutive year they had taken a pitcher in the top 10 overall picks.
Not surprisingly, Rangers fans had high expectations for Diamond and he lived up to them in his first season as a pro. In 46 innings between short-season Spokane and Single-A Clinton, the big pitcher struck out 68 while surrendering only 31 base hits.
Diamond was quickly becoming a fan-favorite, not only because of his performance, but also because of his mindset. Known as a 'bulldog' on the mound, that reputation only increased after one occurrence at fall instructional league in 2004.
Playing against the Oakland Athletics' instructs club, Diamond fell off the mound awkwardly while attempting to deliver one pitch, causing some A's players – including the hitter – to laugh. Diamond delivered some chin music with his next pitch before fanning the hitter on three consecutive 94 MPH fastballs. According to Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report, after the at-bat, Diamond asked the hitter if it would be funny if he were to "wear a fastball" the next time he laughed at Diamond's expense.
Diamond picked up right where he left off in 2005, beginning his season with High-A Bakersfield. Despite pitching in the hitter-friendly California League, the New Orleans native posted phenomenal numbers with the Blaze. He made 14 starts with the club, posting a perfect 8-0 record. Diamond's ERA was a pristine 1.99 and he gave up just 53 hits – while striking out 101 – in 81.1 innings.
The first-half performance earned Diamond a spot in the MLB All-Star Futures game. It also got him a promotion to Double-A Frisco. Diamond's ERA ballooned to 5.35 in 14 starts with the RoughRiders, largely because of his suddenly erratic control. In just 69 Double-A frames, Diamond issued 38 walks [nearly five per nine innings] and uncorked 10 wild pitches.
Although Diamond lowered his Double-A ERA to 4.24 in 2006, the control problems remained the same. The 6-foot-3 righty struck out a league-best 145 batters, but he also walked 78.
Part of Diamond's problem was that he wasn't able to put away hitters. He generally didn't have a problem getting ahead in the count, but he would often struggle to locate his breaking ball or nibble around the corners with his fastball. This not only led to free passes, but he also consistently had high pitch counts.
But even with all his struggles in 41 Double-A starts, Diamond was tough to hit [he has allowed 170 hits in 198 Double-A innings] and he still struck out his share of hitters [213 K's].
Coming into the 2007 campaign, Diamond was expected to make his debut at the Triple-A level. Unfortunately, he was sidelined early in camp and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Diamond has spent the past year at the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona, but he is currently throwing off a mound once again. All signs currently point to a June return to an affiliated club, but that is subject to change.
Also See: Sizing up the right-handed pitching prospects (October 16, 2007)
Repertoire: Fastball, Changeup, Curveball.
Diamond's best offering has always been an overpowering low-to-mid-90s fastball. Though his velocity was inconsistent in 2006 – his last year on the mound – Diamond has generally sat in the 92-94 MPH range since joining the Rangers organization. In the past, Diamond has displayed the ability to dial his fastball into the 95-96 MPH range, a quality that could return with more frequency after he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The hurler's plus changeup helped him limit lefties to a .218 batting average two seasons ago. Perhaps Diamond's biggest challenge over the last few seasons has been finding a breaking pitch. After working with a curveball in 2004 and the first-half of 2005, Diamond practically scrapped the pitch in favor of a slider. But he struggled to command the slider in 2006 and has now reportedly switched back to the curveball. Early returns on Diamond's curveball are positive, but only time will tell, as he only recently began throwing simulated games. Since reaching the Double-A level, Diamond – formerly known as a strike-thrower – has often struggled to find the strike zone. His walk rates have nearly doubled in Double-A and it is one of the only things holding him back.
Projection: If Diamond's curveball comes around as a strong, consistent offering and he is able to fix his recent control issues, he could be a number two starter in the big leagues. Even if Diamond is never able to develop a strong breaking ball, he has the stuff – and attitude – to work as a late-inning reliever. Diamond has long been known for his tenacity on the mound and his excellent power fastball-changeup combination could be lethal in the ‘pen. The Rangers will continue to work Diamond as a starter unless he proves he cannot pitch there in the majors.
2008 Outlook: Last season's Tommy John surgery will likely have Diamond shelved until June. But the hurler is already throwing simulated games and he will continue to pitch in spring and extended spring training until he is ready to join an affiliated club. Diamond may make a handful of rehab starts at some lower levels when he does return, but one would think he would eventually return to Double-A Frisco [or possibly Triple-A Oklahoma] for the remainder of the season.
|2007||DNP - Injured|