Scott Diamond had better watch out. He just earned himself a season’s worth of extra scrutiny and high expectations.
The left-hander faced a potent Angel lineup last night, one that has had absolutely no trouble bashing Twins’ starting pitching this season, and he held them to just four hits (and zero runs) through seven innings. He also struck out a career-high six batters. Not only was this the first time all year a Twins’ starter had held an opponent scoreless, it was one of only a few outings where a starter managed to make it past the sixth inning. Diamond’s start was a lush oasis in the middle of a pitching desert, and Twins fans are still thirsty for more. Against that background, this was probably the worst thing Diamond could have done, because now people are going to start to expect more from him every time he takes the mound.
Diamond had already created a buzz with his performance at Rochester. In six starts there, he had a 2.80 ERA and four wins, and averaged about a hit per inning. It was a stark contrast from his 2011 season, in which he had a AAA ERA of 5.65 and 158 hits in 123 innings. But prior to that, his numbers were somewhere in between; Diamond’s ERAs at AA and AAA hovered between 3.36 and 3.52 in 2009 and 2010. The vast difference in those numbers leads to the question: what should we expect from Scott Diamond?
Diamond is still only 25 years old, which means he has a couple of seasons left before he hits his prime. Thus, it is still reasonable to expect some improvement from him at the Major League level. And many pitchers struggle in their first taste of Big League action. So it is tempting to write off his 2011 season as a fluke. Diamond certainly was not the only Twins player who struggled that year.
Likewise, he probably will not be the next Jim Kaat or Frank Viola. Nobody expected Diamond to take the Major Leagues by storm; when the Twins drafted him in the Rule 5, they were instead hoping he would be a hidden gem (sorry for the cliché, but you should be glad I did not call him a “diamond in the rough”). If you judge by his minor league track records, he has the potential to be a mid to back of the rotation starter who can eat innings and throw a quality start more often than not.
On the spectrum of Twins lefties, Diamond would thus fall somewhere between Mark Redman and Dave Goltz. If they’re lucky, he will show flashes of Allan Anderson; though it’s doubtful that Diamond will ever lead the league in ERA. If they’re really lucky, we might be looking at the next Eric Milton.
Hopefully his one beautiful start will not start us dreaming that he’s another Johan Santana, because that will inevitably lead to disappointment.