First Round (No. 17 Overall): Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian
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. He turned down the opportunity to begin his professional career in favor of a scholarship to Texas Christian University.
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 0-8 record (meaningless) in 15 starts.
Finnegan’s success led to an invitation to pitch for Team USA last summer, where he 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.
He 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, he proved he was healthy weeks before the draft, thus giving him room to improve his stock in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Finnegan doesn’t require much physical projection at 5’11”, 190 pounds, but he boasts one of the better fastballs in the draft class, sitting consistently in the mid-90s and even flirting with triple digits at times. More importantly, he’s already shown the ability to hold the velocity deep into games.
Finnegan’s breaking ball is slurvey, registering in the low-80s with a deceptive shape, and it projects as another potential plus offering at maturity. His changeup is another solid pitch with good fading action out of the zone. Beyond the stuff, Finnegan stands out in the draft class for his feel for sequencing and overall confidence on the mound.
I can't help but be skeptical when it comes to the Royals drafting left-handed pitching, but Finnegan is an arm that can reach the major leagues quickly (either as a starter or reliever) and projects to miss plenty of bats. Overall solid pick for the Royals here, as there's a significant drop-off in pitchers with Finnegan off the board.
Comp Round A (No. 28 Overall): Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (Fla.)
Foster Griffin is a highly projectable 6'5", 190-pound left-hander with an advanced feel for pounding the zone with three pitches, including a low-90s fastballs with hard arm-side run. His velocity picked up this spring and gave him big-time helium headed into the draft.
The Royals went with a near-MLB-ready college left-hander with their first pick, and now they have one of this year's more projectable southpaws in Griffin. He'll need considerable time to develop in the minor leagues, but as a finished product he could be something special.
Comp Balance Round A (No. 40 Overall): Chase Vallot, C, St. Thomas More HS (La.)
Chase Vallot, who won’t turn 18 until late August, put himself on the draft radar as a junior last year at St. Thomas More High School by batting .365 and smashing 12 home runs.
His strong showing at the plate continued throughout the summer, as Vallot impressed on both sides of the ball on the showcase circuit. This spring, the right-handed hitter batted .545/.652/1.111 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 62 RBI in 36 games as a senior.
Love this pick by the Royals here, as I expected them to be in on either Vallot or Jakson Reetz. Vallot can really hit, with effortless plus raw power that comes from a quick, leveraged stroke. His defense will need considerable refinement, but the bat will play at any corner spot if he's ever forced to move from behind the plate.
Second Round (No. 56 Overall): Scott Blewett, RHP, Baker HS (N.Y.)
The 6'6" right-hander dealt with shoulder stiffness this spring, but that doesn't detract from his 92-94 mph fastball and overall projectability.
My best guess is that the Royals hope to sign either two or three of their Day 1 picks, with Blewett having the greatest signability concern.
Final Day 1 Team Grade: B