06/07/2004 9:34 PM ET
Rangers hope Diamond is a gem
Righty from Univ. of New Orleans goes 10th overall
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
|Thomas Diamond was the top pick of the Rangers' 51 draft choices. (courtesy U. of New Orleans)
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers went into the First-Year Player Draft in search of a gem and found a Diamond.
Texas selected junior right-handed pitcher Thomas Diamond from the University of New Orleans with its first pick, 10th overall, in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
"He's a college guy from a solid program," assistant GM Grady Fuson said. "He's a strike-thrower with a big arm. When you have those combinations the translation to the pro game is a 'who knows how quick?' There are some things with him that you want to tweak and play with a little bit. His [tools] should carry, but there is no timetable."
Diamond, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder from Kenner, La., was selected as a preseason All-American by Baseball America and went 6-4 with a 2.38 ERA for the Privateers in 2004. He struck out 138 batters, including a Sun Belt Conference record 17 against Arkansas State. He struck out 15 batters twice in 2004 and reached double digits in strikeouts four times during the season.
The 21-year-old went at least six innings and allowed two or less earned runs in 13 of his 17 starts in 2004.
"I was just happy to be called and it feels good to be a Texas Ranger, and I'm glad to be part of the family," Diamond said.
Diamond's fastball reportedly hovers around 93-94 mph, but has reached 97 mph. His hard slider hovers around 83 mph and he features a changeup that ranges from 79 to 82 mph.
His selection by the Rangers caps off a decorated season on the mound.
Diamond was the University of New Orleans' Male Athlete of the Year and Most Outstanding Performer at the school's annual sports banquet in 2004. He was also named to the inaugural Roger Clemens Award list presented to the nation's top collegiate pitcher.
A first-team Sun Belt Conference selection, Diamond was also named the 2004 Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, leading the conference in ERA and strikeouts, and was named Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the week three times this season.
In 2003, Diamond went 3-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 69 innings. He allowed 50 hits, 42 walks and struck out 96 last season. He went 2-2 with a 5.79 ERA in six games as a freshman for the Privateers.
U of New Orleans
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6-3 W: 230
Born: 1983-04-06 Class: SR
LONG FRAME. STRONG, THICK, ATHLETIC BODY. LONG ARMS. BIG HANDS & FEET. GOOD PITCHERS BUILD. SIMILAR TO ROGER CLEMENS. HIGH 3/4 TO OVER HEAD ARM SLOT. SOLID DELIVERY. GOOD EXTENTION ON RELEASE. FB EXPLODES LATE IN ZONE, RIDES IN ON RHH. ALSO PITCHES IN TO LHH. CB HAS BIG, 12-6 BREAK. SLIDER OCCAISIONALLY TIGHT. EXCELLENT MOVEMENT & DECEPTION TO CHANGE UP. RHP W/ A BIG TIME ARM & DOMINANT STUFF TO BECOME A 1 OR 2 STARTER AT ML LEVEL. VERY GOOD MOUND PRESENCE. AGGRESSIVE APPROACH.
"He's been dominating the strike zone throughout his career and besides a great fastball, he also has a very good change, slider, and a breaking ball," Fuson said. "He is poised and composed and we like his track record."
Diamond was selected in the 38th round by Tampa Bay out of Archbishop Rummel High School in 2001, but went to college instead.
He calls it the best decision he has ever made in his life.
"In high school, I was more of a thrower and after three years of college, I am more of a pitcher," Diamond said. "They put me in a situation where they did not rush me along. My freshman year I didn't throw much and my sophomore year I threw a little bit more. This year, they were going to use me in relief as a closer, but only on my bullpen days where it was not going to affect me."
He has not ruled out moving to the bullpen if necessary.
"I have started all my life and I love doing that," Diamond said. "I can sustain my velocity for a long period of time, but closing is a whole different game. I like it, too, but it is going to come down to what the Rangers need me to do."
The Rangers also selected right-handed pitcher Eric Hurley from Wolfson High School in Florida with the 30th pick in the first round. Hurley, like Diamond, is considered a "power arm." Hurley's teammate, third baseman Billy Butler, was chosen with the 14th pick by the Royals.
"Diamond has as good of an arm as anybody in this draft and he is a strike-thrower with a plus change," Rangers general manager John Hart said. "He's durable and he's got what you look for in potentially front-of-the-rotation stuff.
"We took a similar guy at No. 30, but he's a high school guy. He has a big arm and a lot of room to develop."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.