2017 MLB Breakout Pick: Brandon Finnegan
No matter how good he becomes as a major league pitcher, Brandon Finnegan is likely to always be a trivia answer. For those that don’t remember, Finnegan was a first round draft pick out of TCU by Kansas City in 2014, and after pitching for the Horned Frogs in the College World Series that season, he went on to blow through the minors to become a key member of the Royals bullpen in the big league World Series that same year.
It didn’t go so well (five earned runs in 1.2 innings in two games, including the loss in Game 4 against the Giants), but it was still a fun and impressive feat as Finnegan was the first player to play in the CWS and the Fall Classic in the same season.
In 2015, after a second partial season in the Kansas City bullpen, Finnegan was traded to Cincinnati where he moved back to a familiar starting role. In his first full season with the Reds last year, the lefty posted a 10-11 record with a 3.98 ERA in 31 starts. Soon to be 24 years old, Finnegan still has some work to do limiting home runs (he surrendered 29 last season), but he limited opposing hitters to 150 hits in 172 innings and struck out 145.
Finnegan also got better as the season wore on, which was a huge boost of confidence given the questions surrounding his durability earlier in his career. In 11 starts from July 29 through the end of the season, Finnegan was 5-3 with a 2.23 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 60.2 innings. The sinkerballer also held opponents to a .211 average over that stretch, and he didn’t allow a single homer over his final three starts.
With the Reds in the midst of a rebuild, and fellow starter Anthony DeSclafani dealing with a UCL sprain, Finnegan has an opportunity to establish himself as the team’s ace in 2017.
Another Name to Know: IF/OF Jose Peraza
One More for the Future: P Robert Stephenson