Today I’m going to kick off a new article here at the site. Twice a week I will look at a player that is likely to be on the 2018 Cincinnati Reds for a majority of the season. We will look at what the player brings to the table, where they struggle and what they could do to improve their game. This will be mixed in with the minor league player reviews/reports/videos when those begin in a few weeks.

Brandon Finnegan in 2017

To say that the year could have gone better for Brandon Finnegan would be an understatement.  Three injuries led to him throwing a grand total of 13.0 innings during the year. During the year made just four starts. He had two muscle injuries in his teres major near his left shoulder. He also tore his labrum in his non-pitching shoulder in July in a fall on a boating dock. While it seemed that he was likely done for the season at that point anyways, that sealed it. He would undergo surgery and begin rehabbing the injury. Mark Sheldon wrote yesterday that Finnegan claims he’s completely healed in both shoulders.

Brandon Finnegan’s strengths

In the second half of the 2016 season we got a glimpse of what Brandon Finnegan could be. After some struggles in the first half, where his ERA was 4.71 and he struggled with walks and strikeouts, the lefty dominated. In 13 starts he posted a 2.93 ERA in 70.2 innings with 72 strikeouts and 31 walks. He changed grips on his change up and it made a world of difference. In terms of scouting, the lefty has an above-average fastball, slider and change up at his disposal.

Brandon Finnegan’s weaknesses

There are a few concerns for Finnegan. First is that he missed almost all of 2017 with injuries. While he didn’t get his pitching arm operated on, he had two muscle injuries to the same muscle near his pitching shoulder. When it comes to stuff on the field, there are two issues. The first is walks. In his Major League career, Finnegan has walked 4.5 batters per 9-innings pitched. Even in the second half of 2016 when he excelled he had a higher than you’d like to see walk rate of 3.9 per 9-innings pitched. The other concern is his home run rate. In 2016 he allowed 29 home runs in 172.0 innings. A lot of that was related to the fact that he simply allowed a lot of fly balls, but his rate of fly balls going over the wall was high, too.

Where can Brandon Finnegan improve?

Obviously this will be similar to the weakness section as that’s clearly where the bigger improvements could come from. With that said, the first thing to look at comes from the strengths section. If Brandon Finnegan can be more consistently like the 2016 second half version of himself, with a high strikeout rate and a walk rate under 4.0, it would be a big step forward.

When looking at his weaknesses, the home run rate and ground ball rate are probably tied together closely. Brandon Finnegan throws both a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer. That’s something that happened when he became a Cincinnati Red. Prior to 2016, at least according to Brooks Baseball, he was only throwing a sinker. We are dealing with a small sample size of just 55.0 innings, but that’s more than enough to establish a repertoire, too. Perhaps leaning on the 2-seamer/sinker a little bit more could lead to a lower home run rate with a rise in ground balls.

Health, of course, would go a long way for the Reds and Finnegan. That, however, can’t exactly be counted on. The good news is, he claims he’s healthy now and it’s October.

16 Responses

  1. Kap

    I feel like Finnegan could be a good starting pitcher. Like you said, health is the key this off-season. We definitely saw glimpses of it. I still remember when he came to the big leagues with the royals out of the bullpen and dominated. Something that I will keep in mind as well. If he can’t handle the workload to be a starter, being a late inning bullpen arm is not a bad contingency plan.

  2. Tony

    Finnegan has the stuff and make-up to be a top flight starter. The second half of 2016 and the start of last season before the injuries he was showcasing some of the best stuff a Red’s LH starter has since Danny Jackson. His fastball/ straight change combo is lethal to righties. If he can improve his slider command to get lefties out he could be a star. As with any young pitcher injuries are always a concern, but I personally am not overly worried about the injuries since it was muscular and not structural I think he’ll be fine. I look for him to be a staple in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

  3. Tampa Red

    I get the concern over Finnegan as a starter and he’s got some things to work on — they all do — but he’s younger than all the other candidates except Mahle and he’s done something none of the others have: throw 170+ largely successful innings in the big leagues.

    He’s tough, he’s athletic, he competes well, he has a high-end arm, he wants to be a starter and IMO if he’s healthy he will be a starter, and a good one.

    • CP

      I feel like many have written Finny off as a SP next year, but I have to agree with your point. He is younger than many of the prospects who pitched this past year, and he has been more successful/proven.

      If he is healthy, I believe he will have more of and inside shot to the rotation. The other prospects can always continue to improve at AAA, and provide insurance/depth if an injury or poor performance necessitates a call up.

    • Andrew

      He has done things others haven’t for sure – including win a postseason game pitch in a World Series, albeit a WS appearance he would probably like to forget.

      And he will be pitching at age 25 next year. I have faith

  4. RobL

    We shouldn’t get to hung up on his muscle injuries. Cueto had that run of injuring his lat muscle, and we all worried that he wouldn’t be able to stay healthy. I believe that it factored in to Homer getting the extension and not Cueto. Give Finnegan the chance to move past this.

    His walk rate is high, but he never really got to pitch in the minors. He has been learning as he goes. A healthy Finnegan slots in well with the rotation next year.

    Bailey
    Finnegan
    Castillo
    Stephenson
    Romano

    • Doug Gray

      I think the difference is that the lat isn’t connected to the shoulder. I’m not a doctor, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but that does give me a little more concern than a lat because of the proximity to a part of the arm.

      • RobL

        You can’t do a lat pull without pulling down your arms. The lat helps to decelerate the arm when throwing.

  5. MK

    It seems to me that he is a maximum effort guy on each pitch. Those kind of starters seem to burn out quickly, spend a lot of time on the DL and have a longer shelf life if they become relievers. As a starter he needs to smooth out his delivery and dial down the effort and save the all-out effort to the two or three times in a game when it is needed.

    His current approach is one you see in college and lower minors. Unfortunately he was rushed to majors by KC and never developed a more mature technique.

  6. Brad

    I hope Finnegan becomes a mainstay in the Reds rotation. However, I see him in rotation for 2018 and then become a super reliever for 2019 on when Reds compete. Watching playoff baseball makes me dream on what a bullpen off Iglesias, Peralta, Lorenzon and Finnegan can be.

  7. Reaganspad

    I like Finnegan a lot.

    Rob L, you forgot Disco

    This year will be the year for sorting about 9 starters, since 3 are comin off injury. Cannot see all 3 giving 200 innings, but I like Finnegan starting through July then sliding to the pen if need be. In a year of sorting, it will be good to determine his future as MK points out. You either get it or lock down our pen

    Good options

    • RobL

      I didn’t forget him. I just won’t slot him in until I hear he is healthy. I am hoping for the best, but being wary of the worst.

      • Doug Gray

        He threw 7 innings in his final start of Instructional League. That’s probably the best “he’s healthy” you’re going to get.

      • RobL

        I did not know that. Thanks for correcting me. And yes, that is good enough for me.

  8. sultanofswaff

    Lots of strikeouts/walks/home runs, top shelf stuff. Pretty similar profile to Robert Stephenson.

    Castillo looks to be the ace of the staff. Maybe we trade for a #2. In that scenario, it’s entirely plausible to ask Finnegan to just be a slightly better than average innings eater. I’d take that.