- Full name Benjamin Howard Diggins
- Born 06/13/1979 in Leota, KS
- Profile Ht.: 6'7" / Wt.: 230 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Arizona
- Debut 09/02/2002
Drafted in the 1st round (17th overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000 (signed for $2,200,000).
View Draft ReportDiggins, a draft-eligible sophomore, is one of the biggest enigmas in the draft. He was dominant out of the box and bolted to an 8-0 record, threw 95 mph and showed better command of his fastball and slider than in the past. He was inconsistent in the second half of the season, appearing tired as his performance fell off. Though he finished on a down note, he still was second in the Pac-10 in wins (10) and strikeouts (100). At 6-foot-7 with a body that scouts compare to both Dave Kingman and Dave Winfield, Diggins has enormous untapped potential--both as a hitter and pitcher. He has a live fastball thrown from a crossfire position with little control of his arm action. He also has little sense of a breaking ball, though he continues to try to refine his slider. Just as they were undecided out of high school whether Diggins was more of a pitcher or a hitter, scouts are now trying to decide whether he would be better as a starter or closer. Some worry he may never develop an effective third pitch to be a starter.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Acquired from the Dodgers in a July 2002 deal for Tyler Houston, Diggins immediately became one of the top pitching prospects in the Brewers system. He was off to a nice start in Double-A last year when his elbow began bothering him. Two months of rehab did nothing to solve the problem, so he had Tommy John surgery. Now if he takes the mound at any point in 2004, it will be a significant accomplishment. A big guy with a power arm, he consistently threw in the low 90s before getting hurt, but hasn't consistently hit the mid 90s since college. Not only will he have to regain his velocity when he returns, but he also has plenty of unfinished business. His command and average curveball were inconsistent, and his changeup was below-average. Diggins may benefit from relearning his mechanics on the comeback trail from elbow surgery. At some point, the Brewers must decide if Diggins has the repertoire to be a starter, or whether he'd be better off in a late-inning role that would allow him to use his fastball more.
Acquiring Diggins and Shane Nance from the Dodgers for Tyler Houston and Brian Mallette last July may go down as one of the highlights of Dean Taylor's three-year tenure as general manager. Diggins was a supplemental first-round pick of the Cardinals in 1998, but spent two years at Arizona before signing for a then-Dodgers-record $2.2 million as the 17th overall pick in 2000. Diggins has an electric arm, consistently throwing in the mid-90s and peaking at 98 mph at Arizona, but his velocity and control have fluctuated as a pro. He has thrown more in the low to mid-90s since signing. Some scouts think he'd have more success and regain his old velocity if he moved to the bullpen. Getting hammered during a September callup taught Diggins he can't rely on just his fastball and a mediocre curveball. He has been slow to pick up a changeup or to master his command. The Brewers think if he can refine a slider, that pitch could put him over the top. Diggins will have a chance to crack the Brewers rotation in spring training but may be better served by some time in Triple-A. Some Milwaukee officials think his future is as a closer, though there are no immediate plans to change his role.
After a strong college career at Arizona that made him the 17th overall pick, Diggins ranked as the top prospect in the organization last winter. But he had an uneven pro debut last season at low Class A Wilmington. He struggled with his velocity at midseason and battled a hamstring problem early in the campaign. He did end on a high note, going 5-0, 1.57 in his final eight starts. After reaching 98 mph with his fastball and consistently hitting the mid-90s in college, Diggins was in the 87-89 mph range at Wilmington. He finally returned to the low 90s with good movement in August, while showing improvements with his curveball. He impressed the Dodgers with his competitiveness and ability to pitch. Diggins played both ways at Arizona and offers plenty of power at the plate. Like many tall pitchers, Diggins struggles with the consistency of his mechanics. He has been working on a changeup since he signed but the pitch still needs a good deal of refinement. Diggins' ceiling remains as high as anyone in the organization. Some scouts say he's a better prospect as a power hitter, but the Dodgers see him as a pitcher, possibly as a closer. His development will continue this year in high Class A.
Teams entered last year's draft with mixed feelings about Diggins. Some clubs liked his bat, others preferred his arm and several teams were interested in both. That was the case in 1998, when the Cardinals used a supplemental first-round pick to draft him in hopes of developing both aspects of his game. He instead attended the University of Arizona and went 10-4, 3.83 as a draft-eligible sophomore last spring. Diggins wound up as the 17th overall pick, but didn't come to terms until the day before classes were to resume for Arizona's fall semester, netting a club-record $2.2 million signing bonus. He reported to instructional league and proved to be even better than advertised. Diggins has a 96 mph fastball that was clocked as high as 98 at Arizona and rated by Baseball America as the best in the draft. He also throws a good changeup and is continuing to work on the consistency of a slider that already is average and has all the makings of a plus pitch. While those will get any pitcher noticed, the Dodgers are most impressed with Diggins' athleticism, especially for a 6-foot-7 pitcher. Comparisons to Dave Kingman and Dave Winfield have been common. Considering that Chin-Feng Chen hit just six homers while Willie Aybar drilled four in 2000, a case could be made that Diggins has the organization's best power potential. But he's definitely sticking to the mound. Inexperience is the biggest hurdle for Diggins to clear. He's still learning how to pitch and has yet to face professional hitters. Some scouts are concerned about his tendency to throw his fastball across his body. His delivery and mechanics need fine-tuning to enable him to control his arm action and improve his overall command. Diggins also showed fatigue late in the college season, meaning an improvement in his overall conditioning is being addressed in order for him to handle the longer pro season. Of course, focusing strictly on pitching instead of playing a position in between starts will keep him fresher. Diggins is coming off an outstanding showing during instructional league that included several overpowering performances and will be expected to open the 2001 season at Class A Wilmington. A midseason promotion to high Class A Vero Beach would excite all parties, but isn't considered mandatory. The Dodgers believe that once Diggins gets his feet wet in the pro ranks, he could move quickly.
Minor League Top Prospects
Some managers liked Wilmington pitchers Rojas, Rijo and Cordero better than Diggins, a 2000 first-rounder who was a puzzling disappointment for chunks of his pro debut. Then came a dramatic second-half turnaround in which he went 5-0, 1.57 in his final eight starts. He stood as tall as his 6-foot-7 frame while flirting with no-hitters in back-to-back starts. The zip was back in a fastball once timed at 98 mph while he was in college. It had dipped into the high 80s during a midseason slump. "He pitched inside much better later in the season and did a better job of locating his fastball," Biancalana said. "And you have to like those long arms." Diggins continues to work extensively with Dodgers coaches on his mechanics and a slider, both with mixed results. If pitching doesn't work out, some scouts have considered him a better prospect as a power hitter.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Fastball in the Florida State League in 2002