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Just four months ago, Brandon Finnegan showed up in these pages as part of a three-part review of the 2014 draft. Now, he has a shot at a World Series ring.

The Royals have become the darlings of the postseason, rattling off an 8 – 0 record in a string of close games by channeling atypical power amidst a small-ball narrative. Finnegan has become one of the most intriguing tales on a team that is chock-full of storylines, joining a green pitching staff that has already leaned on a couple of rookies in the rotation this season.

Selected 17th overall, the southpaw was actually the 11th pitcher chosen in the arm-heavy draft, but he is easily the first of his class to earn a promotion to the show. Finnegan was called up when rosters expanded in September, and his profile was well-covered by CJ Wittmann and Craig Goldstein before the lefty made his MLB debut. He coasted through his first month in the bigs, and in a blink, Finnegan found himself on the mound in the AL Wild Card Game with the Royals' season on the line.

2014 Statistics

GS

IP

ERA

K %

BB %

H %

HR %

A+

5

15.0

0.60

26.5%

4.1%

10.2%

2.0%

AA

0

12.0

2.25

23.2%

3.6%

26.8%

3.6%

MLB

0

7.0

1.29

35.7%

3.6%

21.4%

0.0%

Playoffs

0

4.3

4.15

15.8%

15.8%

21.1%

0.0%

Through two minor-league stops, Finnegan had a combined strikeout-to-walk ratio of 26-to-4 through 27 innings, and he didn't miss a beat upon his promotion to the bigs, whiffing 10 batters across seven frames out of the bullpen while surrendering just one base on balls. He got the ball versus the Athletics in extra innings of the American League Wild Card game, shutting down the green-n-gold for the 10th and 11th, though his leadoff walk in the 12th inning would come around to score after Finnegan had been pulled from the game. The ALCS was a rockier road, as Finnegan retired just one of the five batters that he faced, but the Royals have shown faith in the rookie and a willingness to use him in tight situations.

There's not a whole lot to pull from the small-sample stats that Finnegan has posted in his brief pro career, but his rapid ascension and early success have obviously accelerated his time table. Selected as a starter, Finnegan has been used out of the bullpen since Double-A, and was confined to short stints in his handful of starts in the Carolina League. The usage pattern is likely designed to limit his workload following the college season, but his lack of ideal size (Finnegan is listed at 5-foot-11) and high-octane delivery have fueled speculation that his long-term role is in relief. The Royals will have some decisions to make regarding his future, but for now they are just concerned with his availability over the next two four-to-seven games.

Pitch Type

Count

Freq

Velo (mph)

pfx HMov (in.)

pfx VMov (in.)

H. Rel (ft.)

V. Rel (ft.)

Fourseam

4

2.16%

93.50

5.05

8.29

2.12

5.92

Sinker

133

71.89%

93.73

9.58

7.33

2.23

5.90

Change

21

11.35%

84.36

8.05

4.83

2.35

5.76

Slider

27

14.59%

82.44

-4.27

0.35

2.40

5.78

Finnegan typically sits 92-94 mph and touches 96 with his heat, which features arm-side run that can be devastating on either side of the plate when his command is on target. He was harnessing some playoff adrenaline in his Wild Card appearance, firing several bullets above 95 mph and pumping the gas up to 97 against the A's. The fastball has dominated the southpaw's pitch selection in the majors, particularly in the playoffs, where 50 of the 64 pitches that he has thrown (78 percent) came from the fastball bin. The fastball appears to be the most advanced of his pitches, with solid command to optimize the utility of his velocity, and this factor has likely influenced the heater-heavy approach.

The slider has earned rave reviews from scouts as a potential put-away pitch, but Finnegan has struggled with his consistency with the breaker this fall. Some of his sliders have lacked depth, and those with bigger break have often swooped wide of the strike zone. The pitch has two-plane break that follows a 2-to-8 o'clock flight path, and he will let the slider loose in just about any count (especially versus fellow lefties), so his ability to harness a consistent shape and command of the slide will be a large determinant of his success.

The change-up is a quality offering that has shown glimpses of being a plus pitch, though it has virtually disappeared in the playoffs, as Finnegan has gone to el cambio just twice out of 64 throws. The arm-speed has been a bit volatile in his limited showing, occasionally slowing down to telegraph the incoming pitch, but he has also demonstrated an ability to replicate fastball arm-speed on his best change-ups. Once again, consistency is an issue, and his recent abandonment of the change reflects his lack of trust in the pitch.

Mechanics Report Card

Balance

35

Momentum

65

Torque

70

Posture

45

Repetition

50

Overall

B-

Finnegan's mechanics represent the classic trade-off between stability and power, with a delivery that is high-intensity yet volatile. It's a double-edged sword of athleticism, as the left-hander has the physical capacity to generate massive power but his foundational stability suffers at full-speed.

The weakest link in his kinetic chain is that of balance, as he struggles to maintain head position in all three planes. It starts with a lean back toward third base as he reaches max leg lift, followed by a drop-n-drive technique that lowers his center of gravity during the stride phase. He also leans back toward second base in a rock-n-roll pattern while hunching forward prior to foot strike, and after touch down he veers toward the glove-side, culminating in subpar posture. That said, the early returns suggest that Finnegan has made some modest improvements in this area and that he can maintain decent repetition of his quick-paced delivery despite the obstacles.

The key to his approach is power. Finnegan has a very good first move of momentum that leads with the hip, kicking off a strong charge to the plate before he shifts into a faster gear after max leg lift. He has demonstrated an ability to repeat this timing signature, particularly on fastballs, and further improvements to his balance and stability will further bolster his pitch command. He has a closed stride and generates excellent torque, utilizing a combination of a big upper-body twist with a heavy delay of trunk rotation to maximize hip-shoulder separation and fuel his mid-90s heat.

Pitchers who sacrifice stability for power are vulnerable to an elevated injury risk, and there's an added wrinkle with Finnegan's motion as he exhibits all three of the ingredients for elbow drag, which is a precursor to elbow injury. These ingredients include an “inverted W,” a pronounced scapular load, and the extra delay of his trigger. Put it all together and he has a tendency for the throwing elbow to be in a compromising position once the rotational phases kick into gear, and for the elbow to lag behind the shoulder axis during crucial parts of the delivery. This may not occur on every pitch, but it's something that the team will need to monitor through his development.

The presence of these risk factors could hasten a decision to limit his workloads as a permanent fixture in the bullpen. As is, Finnegan pitches from the stretch all the time, using a single timing pattern that is easier to repeat and helps to ease the potential transition to full-time reliever.

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SansRig
10/17
I was hoping that this was coming. Thanks, Doug.
jkaflagg
10/19
Would be interesting to see how pitchers who got all the way to the big leagues in their first season progressed in their careers.....Paco Rodriguez looked good in his first full year in LA but then fell back this season; and Ryan Wagner flamed out quickly with the Reds. I seem to recall the Braves and Red Sox moving some young relievers up quickly as well, but the fact I can't remember their names would indicate they didn't stick.