Blue Jays Question: Could Scott Diamond Be the Lefty Liam Hendriks?


Now that the Blue Jays have added a trio of starters, is there a new option for the bullpen already on the team?

So far, the biggest moves the Blue Jays have made in the off-season have been focused on fortifying the starting rotation. The re-signing of Marco Estrada, the trade for Jesse Chavez and the pre-maligned move to bring back J.A. Happ have given some kind of structure to an entity that had two names at the start of free agency.

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Before blowing the collective fan base hive mind with the Happ boomerang, the Blue Jays had begun a period of Quad-A player acquisition that would make Toronto fans feel as if Alex Anthopoulos has never left. Names like Humberto Quintero (whose most notable contribution to baseball was this video) and Casey Kotchman have been added to the fold, which would be big news in 2009, but makes a smaller splash nowadays. The most recent new name to be tossed into the mix of the 2016 Buffalo Bisons is the latest in the long line of Canadian pitchers to find they way back home. Guelph native Scott Diamond, the former Minnesota Twin who last on the radar of regular fans when he was fantasy-relevant in 2012 and on the radar of movie fans last season when he pitched for the Durham Bulls, signed on last week for a minor-league deal with a spring training invite.

Now the expectation for Diamond is to be a starter at the AAA level as he has done in Durham and Louisville, eating innings while the Blue Jays’ remaining prospects work up through the system. However, there is an opportunity for Diamond to make an impact on the major league team that won’t involve Felix Doubront levels of questioning when he’s forced into starting a game.

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One of Diamond’s rotation mates in Minnesota during the 2012 season was recently Athletic’d reliever Liam Hendriks. Hendriks did not share the same amount of starting success as Diamond did, and was bounced from the rotation after 2013 as well. It wasn’t until 2014 with Kansas City, when he was initially used out of the bullpen, did Hendriks find success. In 2015, Hendriks’ innings were cut and he was able to focus more on using his 96-mph fastball in tandem with his slider, becoming one of the Blue Jays’ most effective relievers. A fastball that was being hit at .263 clip in 2012, was hit for a .138 average last season, and the ERA dropped to 2.92.

Diamond doesn’t have the fastball that Hendriks has, topping out at 89-MPH even when he was back in the major leagues. The plus pitch for Diamond has been his 12-6 curveball, worth four runs above the average curve in 2012, but not much since. Last season was the first glimmer of hope that he could be a major league pitcher again. He posted a 3.71 ERA at Durham, and his K/BB ratio was the second highest of his career at any level of baseball. He was leading the International League in wins at the end of July with a 9-3 record before slowing down and finishing at 11-6.

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  • The Bulls also gave Diamond three relief appearances in 2015. The first one, coming in for Drew Smyly following a rehab start, went poorly. Norfolk battered him for seven runs and ten hits in five innings. In the following two, Indianapolis and Norfolk 2: Tidal Boogaloo, Diamond fared much better. Again coming in for Smyly, over eight innings, Diamond allowed just one unearned run. Those kinds of results are promising for bullpen relief, even if Diamond never emerged in the middle of an inning to take the ball from Smyly’s hands.

    Shortening Diamond’s outings would yield positive results according to his metrics through the order. His curveball and change-up pitches are remarkably effective out of the gate, yielding .202 and .185 batting averages respectively against hitters the first time through the order. If work on his sinker has come along since it debuted in 2013, that gives Diamond three pitches to induce weak contact. It’ll help having a defense behind him that is capable of scooping up those balls as well. The BABIP the past two seasons would make Tony Gwynn jealous: .350 in 2014 with Rochester, .350 in Louisville that same year, and .330 in Durham. That number would go down in Toronto. Ryan Goins and Troy Tulowitzki are sizable upgrades over the likes of Ryan Brett and Hak-Ju Lee.

    Next: If Diamond's In The Pen, Do the Blue Jays Have Enough Starters?

    Is this article suggesting that Diamond can emerge from the rough and banish Aaron Loup to the minors? No. The best bet for that task is Chad Girodo. However, if used in accordance with Jim Scott’s excellent piece on the T-T-Tango pitching system, Diamond becomes an excellent candidate to make the team as a pitcher who can provide a bridge to the specialty relievers at the end. Even if the Blue Jays aren’t willing to take that leap, limiting Diamond’s outings would let him keep hitters off-balance in the same manner as a bargain-basement Marco Estrada. This is the best way for Diamond to pitch his first MLB innings in three years. If he has to come up to the majors as a starter, Blue Jays’ fans won’t be near as happy to see him.