Player: Brandon Finnegan
Drafted by: Kansas City Royals
DOB: 04/14/1993 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 185 pounds
School: Texas Christian
Previously Drafted: 45th round, 2011 (Rangers)
A former two-way standout at Southwest Christian (Texas) High School, Brandon Finnegan was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 45th round of the 2011 draft but turned down the opportunity to begin his professional in favor of a scholarship to Texas Christian University. Now, three years later, there’s a realistic possibility that Finnegan will be drafted 44 rounds higher than he was in 2011.
Finnegan made an immediate impact during his freshman season at TCU, registering a 3.47 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 62.1 innings (8.09 K/9) while appearing in 23 games, 11 of which were starts. Though his numbers were solid on paper, Finnegan struggled with his control for most of the season, allowing 51 hits and 30 walks (4.33 BB/9).
The left-hander’s sophomore campaign can only be described as frustrating. In his first season as a full-time member of TCU’s starting rotation, Finnegan, 20 at the time, posted a 3.18 ERA while improving both his strikeout (9.76 K/9) and walk (3.97 BB/9) rates over 79.1 innings. However, he also went the entire year without notching a win, as he finished the season with an (and meaningless) 0-8 record in 15 starts.
Finnegan’s success led to an invitation to pitch for Team USA last summer, where the southpaw boosted his draft stock with seven shutout innings against a veteran Cuban National Team. He allowed only four baserunners (three hits, one walk) and struck out eight hitters.
This season, the 21-year-old has put everything together to emerge as one of the top pitchers in college baseball. In his 14 starts prior to the NCAA regionals, Finnegan set career-highs with a 2.14 ERA, 2.57 BB/9, 11.79 K/9 and 84 innings pitched. The lefty would likely have posted even gaudier numbers had he not missed a good chunk of the spring after leaving his April 25 start with shoulder stiffness. Thankfully, Finnegan made his return to the mound on May 13 to throw 80 pitches over four innings against Oklahoma. Though he wasn’t at his best in the outing, Finnegan proved he was healthy weeks before the draft, thus giving him room to improve his stock in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Full Scouting Report
Left-hander is undersized at 5’11”, 185 pounds and has some effort in his delivery but repeats it well; knows how to use his incredibly strong lower half; plus athlete; arm works well and creates natural deception due to its length on the backside; does a good job of staying on line with target; amount of time this season missed due to shoulder stiffness is concerning and raises questions about his durability; explosive delivery and two present plus offerings give him big upside as a closer.
Produces big-time velocity despite small frame, as he consistently works in the 93-96 mph range with his fastball and can run it as high as 98 mph; maintains velo deep into games; present feel for locating pitch to all four quadrants of strike zone; potential to sit in the high 90s while working in short bursts out of the bullpen.
Breaking ball is more of a slurve than a true slider, though it nonetheless projects to be a plus offering at maturity; thrown with outstanding depth and tight spin, which gives it late diving action out of the zone; big-time swing-and-miss weapon, especially if he moves to the bullpen; feel for pitch can vary from start to start, but it’s still consistently effective thanks to his explosive fastball.
Pitch lacks significant movement but is masked with deceptive, near-fastball arm speed; present feel for sequencing it with his fastball and breaking ball; throws with confidence in a variety of counts; will be crucial toward his development as a starter and a potential nonfactor should he move to the bullpen.
Finnegan has lowered his walk rate in each of his three seasons at TCU; is consistent around the plate but will at times have bouts of inconsistency and wildness as a result of the effort in his delivery; rarely misses down the middle of the plate; knack for making big pitches speaks to both his confidence and competitiveness.
Shows an advanced feel for executing a game plan; understands how to use full arsenal to keep entire zone open over the course of an outing; noticeably trusts his pure stuff and therefore always pitches on the offensive; does an impressive job of pounding the zone despite mechanics and electric fastball/slider; present combination of stuff and polish suggests his command should be better than expected regardless of future role.
MLB Player Comparison: Billy Wagner
The physical comparisons between Finnegan and Billy Wagner are striking, as they’re both left-handers who are less than 6 feet tall with tree-trunk thighs and the ability to be flat-out nasty. And for those who don’t remember, Wagner actually was developed as a starter in the minors and didn’t pitch a single game in relief until reaching the major leagues.
Projection: No. 2 starter ceiling/high-leverage reliever (potential closer) floor
Major Leagues ETA: Late 2016 (starter); mid-2015 (reliever)
Chances of Signing: 75 percent
Finnegan should sign unless he falls in the first round due to concerns about his shoulder and ability to remain a starter in the long term. If that’s the case, he could potentially return to TCU for his senior season to prove he’s healthy and capable of making an impact as part of a big league rotation.