Cincinnati Reds: Getting to Know Brandon Finnegan


The main piece that the Cincinnati Reds got in return from the Kansas City Royals for Johnny Cueto was 22-year-old left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan.

Finnegan was originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the 45th round of the 2011 draft, but didn’t sign. He was later taken by the Royals in the first-round of the 2014 out of Texas Christian University and didn’t take long to make his big league debut. He appeared in just 13 games (five starts) between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, boasting a 1.33 ERA and 0.89 WHIP before being called up on September 1, less than three months after he was drafted.

He pitched seven innings out of the bullpen for the Royals in September, striking out 10 and allowing only one earned run. The rookie’s performance was good enough to earn a spot on their postseason roster and Finnegan went on to become the first player in baseball history to appear in a College World Series and a World Series in the same year. Finnegan shined in the AL Wild Card Game and ALDS, allowing one run and one hit in four innings while striking out three and walking two, but struggled in the ALCS and World Series, giving up six runs in two innings.

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Before the 2015 season, Finnegan was named as a top 100 prospect in most major rankings. Baseball America rated him highest at No. 55, had him at No. 75, and Baseball Prospectus named him the 87th best prospect.

After spring training, Finnegan was sent back to Double-A as the Royals wanted him to work on being a starter. The move didn’t exactly go as planned, as the Royals called up him to the big leagues four different times to help in the bullpen.

In the minors, Finnegan is 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 11 appearances over 27 innings. He’s racking up a lot of strikeouts (10.7 K/9), but is walking his fair share as well (6.3 BB/9). In seven starts, he has a 3.38 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, but hasn’t gone more than four innings in any appearance.

Finnegan has been much better in his time with the Royals this season, posting a 2.96 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and 4.8 walks per nine in 24.1 innings, all in relief.

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Despite his success out of the bullpen, the Reds plan to use Finnegan in a starting role, and for good reason: his stuff is electric.

From’s Jim Callis:

"“Though he lacks size at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he has a big fastball that can reach 98 mph. His low-80s slider gives him a solid second offering, and he also has an effective changeup.”"

And Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper:

"“Finnegan has the arsenal of a starting pitcher and while he is short, he has some present strength. If Finnegan moves back into a starting role, he needs to work on regaining the feel for his changeup. As a reliever, he’s largely junked the pitch but it was above-average at times when he was pitching as a starter in college. This year Finnegan has largely focused on using his 92-95 mph fastball and his slider which flashes above-average.”"

The southpaw will obviously need to get more experience as a starter under his belt, but the stuff is clearly there. Even if Finnegan doesn’t work out as a starter, he’s already had success as a reliever and could be a valuable piece out of the bullpen. With the kind of stuff he has, Finnegan could be suited for the closer’s role once Aroldis Chapman leaves.

Finnegan is under team control through 2021, meaning he could be an impact pitcher with the Reds for years to come. If he’s not called up sooner, expect to see him in Cincinnati in September when rosters expand and the Reds’ rookie starters start to near their innings limits. If all goes well with his transition into a starter, you can bet he’ll be in the mix for the 2016 rotation.

Next: Analyzing the Johnny Cueto trade