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The Red Report 2018 - Brandon Finnegan

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What can the Reds expect from a healthy Brandon Finnegan in 2018?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Media Day Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

  • Born on April 14, 1993 in Fort Worth, TX.
  • Attended his hometown college, Texas Christian University (TCU), where he pitched in the 2014 College World Series.
  • Also pitched in the 2014 World Series as a member of the Kansas City Royals, becoming the first pitcher to pitch in the College and Major League World Series’ in the same year.
  • Unfortunately, because of a slew of injuries, he only pitched in 13 innings for the Reds in 2017.

Organizational History

Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 1st round (17th pick) of the 2014 amateur draft.
Signed June 28, 2014
Debut: September 6, 2014
Rookie Status: Exceeded rookie limits during 2015 season
2018 Contract Status: Pre-Arb
Arb Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

Career Stats

Scouting Report

According to Brooks Baseball, Finnegan mainly uses a sinker (93 mph) and fourseam fastball (94 mph) while mixing in a change-up that generates a lot of ground balls and a slider.

Brooksbaseball.net

2018 Projections

Brandon Finnegan 2018 Projections

Source G GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Source G GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Depth Chart 21 21 122 8.74 4.23 4.65 4.88 1
Steamer 21 21 116 8.9 4.56 4.69 4.82 1
ZiPS 24 24 122.7 8.58 3.89 4.62 4.95 0.9

Outlook

Brandon Finnegan’s first start of 2017 went better than any of us Reds fans could have imagined. Pitching against the Philadelphia Phillies back on April 5, he threw 7 awesome innings, giving up no runs on 1 hit while only allowing 1 walk and striking out 9. It was arguably the best start of his young career and it propelled him to have the best season of his young career. If only the latter part of that sentence were true.

As you all know, Brandon Finnegan only threw 6 more innings after that April 5 start. In only his third start of the season, Finnegan went on the 60-day-dl with a teres major strain. He came back in late June and promptly injured it again. Then he had to have surgery a few days later on his right shoulder because he fell off a boat and tore his labrum. For as awesome as Finnegan’s 2017 began, it very, very quickly took a turn for the worse. Unfortunately for the Reds, it leaves them asking the same question heading into 2018 as they were asking in 2017: What do we make of Brandon Finnegan?

Does that sound familiar? It should. Our friend Derek Grimes wrote about this in last year’s version of the Brandon Finnegan Red Report:

What to make of Brandon Finnegan?

Several times last season, Finnegan flashed brilliance. There was that time in April where he nearly no-hit the eventual World Champion Cubs. Then, in May, he allowed only one run to the Dodgers while trying to out-dueling the game’s best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. In August, he shut’em down again, allowing only one hit.

Of course, this was the same guy that allowed the fourth most home runs in the National League. He led all NL pitchers in HR/9 (1.52), and brought home the, um, trophy in BB/9, too (4.4).

In his first legitimate chance as a full-time starter, Finnegan threw 172 innings (good!), but he only made it through the seventh inning in a game four times, and in nearly half of his starts, didn’t even make it through six full (bad!).

If you take that quote and tweak a few sentences here and throw in a quip about injuries there, you pretty much describe Brandon Finnegan’s 2017 season. He flashed his brilliance against the Phillies in his first start, but then he walked 12 and gave up 6 earned runs in his next 3 starts (which totaled 6 innings.) While at least two of those starts can be attributed to injuries, that adds another factor in how the Reds are able to assess the young left-hander. Instead of only worrying about if he can limit his walks and keep the ball in the yard, they now have to take the health of his shoulder into account.

With regards to Finnegan’s performance, we have to go back to 2016 to get somewhat of an idea of what to expect. While we know that he led National League pitchers in HR/9 and BB/9, he also made a lot of improvement as the season went on.

Brandon Finnegan 2016 Splits

Split GS IP ERA K/9 BB/9 K% BB% K/BB
Split GS IP ERA K/9 BB/9 K% BB% K/BB
1st Half 18 101.1 4.71 6.5 4.71 16.60% 12.00% 1.38
2nd Half 13 70.2 2.93 9.2 3.97 24.60% 10.60% 2.32

The thing you notice the most in this table is that his strikeout totals skyrocketed from the first half to the second half. While his walk rate was still high, it also improved as the season went on. A major factor that played into his better second half in 2016 was the improvement of his change-up, one that carried over into his first start of 2017 and a major factor in that performance. This gave him a solid third pitch that helped him produce more ground balls while helping his fourseamer produce more whiffs.

While the improvements he made in 2016 are great, the number one determinant of Finnegan’s success in 2018 will be his ability to limit walks. If he can control his fastball and change-up, turn some of those walks into outs, and start going deeper into games, the Reds will have a major cog in the rotation that they sorely lacked in 2017.

This is what the Reds are expecting out of Finnegan, as they have already penciled him in as one of their top 4 starters heading into the season. Only time will tell if the Reds can count on the guy who made such vast improvements in 2016. A healthy shoulder in 2018 would be a great start.