Quick show of hands: Who had Scott Diamond as the Twins leader for WAR among pitchers through the season's first six weeks? Easy enough to predict, right?
In what's been a brutal season thus far, Diamond has provided us with at least s fleeting breath of fresh air. Whether or not you're a believer in his ability to maintain success at the Major League level, it looks like the Twins can at the very least break even on the trade they made with the Braves to retain Diamond. That's a lot better than a lot of people thought at the time of the deal.
The Twins sent Billy Bullock to Atlanta to retain Diamond. Bullock, the Twins second-rounder in 2009, was widely considered to be the organization's top power arm prospect. The trade was frustrating on a number of levels. Then-GM Bill Smith had cited a desire for power arms when he traded J.J. Hardy for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobsen, and then flipped the system's best one for a finesse lefty. The Twins could have kept Diamond for nothing by just giving him a roster spot for the entirety of the 2011 season, but optioned him to Triple-A in favor of guys like Jeff Manship. Manship pitched 3.1 innings before being sent down.
All of that was frustrating. But, just over a year later, it doesn't seem to matter. Bullock has been largely terrible for the Braves' top minor league affiliates. In 69.1 innings of work, he's 53 batters (including 19 in 19.2 this season) and also hit 10 men. Combined with his hits, he's allowed 35 percent of the batters he's faced to reach base. The 14+ K/9 he showed the Twins in Double-A has dropped to 10.6 overall, and just 7.3 thus far in 2012.
All told, the 14 brilliant innings Diamond has turned in so far this year may end up being more impressive than anything Bullock does if he can't corral the walks. I'm not rooting against the guy, but it'd be difficult to stomach if Bullock had developed (or does develop) into Craig Kimbrel 2.0.
Meanwhile, as much as we'd all just like to put the Johan Santana trade to bed, Deolis Guerra doesn't want to let us. He's struck out 25 hitters through 23.2 innings while walking only five between Double-A and Triple-A. Guerra's 1.14 ERA is likely a mirage, but he had an under-the-radar 3.72 FIP at Double-A in 2011. He's continued to strike batters out at a prolific rate while limiting the free passes since the beginning of 2011. There's hope yet that he could become a Major League contributor, perhaps even a high-leverage arm to pitch late in games for this team. While that's not much compensation for an elite starting pitcher, as fans Twins fans we know it only takes one desperate general manager to overpay for 25 innings of that bullpen arm he so desperately feels he needs. Maybe someday everything will balance out, and the Twins will get a team's No. 3 prospect in exchange for a few months of Guerra
I'd imagine at some point this season, we see Guerra in a Twins uniform. Who knows? He may even come in and take the ball from Diamond in the eighth inning following another solid performance, and for a really brief moment, relieve some frustration by providing a bright spot in an otherwise maddening season. It's not much to hang your hat on, but when the season's gone as it has so far, I'll take all of the positives, silver linings, and small victories I can get.