It didn't take long for the cavalry of the recent draft talent to arrive. With a debut on September 6th, left handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan became the first 2014 draftee to taste the big leagues. A college arm, slotted in the bullpen, in the middle of a playoff race, is not a recipe for immediate fantasy return, but for those in keeper/dynasty formats where a big league appearance allows a player to enter the talent pool, Finnegan is a guy worth of firing your last bullet (FAAB budget, bench slots, etc.).
Finnegan was drafted 17th overall by the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 draft, and promptly signed for the slotted bonus of $2.2 million. Prior to his final collegiate season at TCU, many scouts considered Finnegan to be a Top-10 talent, but a shoulder injury hurt his stock. He has recovered well from the injury, and I'm not concerning myself too much with the shoulder. It's never a great thing to have on your health sheet so early in a career, but it's looking more and more like a small blip and not a recurring theme.
Brandon Finnegan's professional career started in Hi-A Wilmington where he amassed a strikeout to walk ratio of 13/2 in 15 innings pitched. He started 5 games and held a 0.60 ERA, and was promoted to AA NW Arkansas of the Texas League. In AA, Finnegan did not start and instead made 8 relief appearances. His outcome was no less dominant as he maintained a similar 13/2 K/BB ratio in 12 innings.
Finnegan features a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball, changeup and slider. The fastball and slider are plus offerings, and the changeup is refined enough to play at the highest level. Finnegan's fastball has plenty of arm-side run and sits 92-94 mph with it topping out around 96 when working in spurts. His slider is the put away pitch, and when paired with the fastball it's hard not to see a future closer. He gets the most out of his off-speed pitch because of his fastball's success - there's vertical movement and late fade that allows him to consistently get right handers to chase. In my opinion, the repertoire could use another pitch to solidify his future as a starter. It's so easy to see him succeed out of the bullpen when he can go out there and let the fastball/slider combo fly for an inning at a time.
Taking a look at what Finnegan's future role could be is a little murky. The preference would be to keep him as a starter, and he'll certainly return to the minors in 2015 to get some more time in that role. If he succeeds out of the bullpen during this playoff run, the leash as a starter could be short. Working against Finnegan's chances as a starter are his injury history, his stature (5'11", 185 lbs.) is not one that screams future workhorse, and the Royals rotation doesn't have a readily available slot. Guthrie, Vargas, Ventura, and Duffy are all signed through next season and James Shields is a possible re-sign candidate.
There's no denying, that despite his current MLB roster spot, Brandon Finnegan is a long-term play. The suggestion to add him is merely highlighting the potential loophole created by his unique promotion. I have bids out for him in multiple leagues where he otherwise wouldn't be eligible, and will wrap him up to long term contracts if I can win him. The risk is minimal this late in the year, and the payoff could be huge as Finnegan is currently a fringe Top 50 fantasy prospect candidate for me.
On a bit of a side note, I'm seeing a lot of Marcus Stroman and Yordano Ventura comps on Finnegan. Please don't let this set any unrealistic expectations for him. Yes, they are all less than 6 feet tall and will hopefully make it as SP's, but they are at drastically different points of the development curve. Both Stroman and Ventura have proven the ability to hold elite velocity late into a game, and Finnegan has never worked past the 4th inning in any professional start. Stroman also had a considerably deeper arsenal, and Ventura a more explosive fastball. A C.J. Wilson comp jumped out at me, and I really like this one. Both are left handed and Wilson flirted with a relief role early in his career. Again, it's not a perfect fit, but something to consider.
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