Name: Brandon Finnegan
Born: April 4, 1993 (21), Fort Worth, Texas
Height/Weight: 5'11", 185 pounds
School: Texas Christian University (Texas)
Normally, when we think about Texan pitchers, we think of big, strapping right-handed power pitchers. Meet Brandon Finnegan, who turns that image on its head. Not only is he a southpaw that throws heat, but he doesn't even break the six-foot mark, standing in at only five feet, eleven inches.
The MVP of the Southwest High School baseball team in 2011, Finnegan was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 45th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He turned down their offer and decided instead to become a Horned Frog at Texas Christian University.
In his first year at TCU, he bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen, starting eleven games and pitching out of the pen in twelve, but he had success in both roles. He held opponents to a .234 batting average for the year and surrendered only seven extra base hits for the entire year, none of which were home runs. By the time the season ended, the Horned Frogs team compiled a 14-9 record in games he pitched. It became apparent that the team had a special player on its hands.
As a starter first and foremost in his sophomore season, Finnegan had even more success. In almost 80 innings, he struck out a team high 86 batters while walking only 35. Despite a 3.18 ERA for the season, Finnegan went 0-8. He simply very little in the way of run support from his team: 2.75 runs per game. To put things into a little context, he allowed three runs or fewer in twelve of his sixteen appearances and allowed two or fewer runs in nine, yet he still went winless for the year. Despite that, scouts were watching him.
That summer, he went to play with USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. This is notable because he got a few pointers from Carlos Rondon on how to throw his slider. Before he implemented those tips, the slider was somewhat slow and slurvish. Rondon advised him to throw the pitch harder, and when Finnegan started doing so, not only did the pitch move at a higher velocity, but it also had more movement and a sharper break. The improved pitch had a huge impact on his season, as his junior year was his most successful as a collegiate player. Pitching a career high 84 innings, he posted a sterling 2.14 ERA, striking out 110 batters and walking 24. That was 11.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings—roughly a five-to-one ratio.
Already a talent many believed could be drafted early, Finnegan's stock has risen considerably since his high school days, and the former 45th-round draft pick will all but certainly be selected near the beginning of the first round in the 2014 draft.
What The Scouts Think
The biggest question regarding Finnegan is his lack of size. While the correlation between pitcher height and injury is very tenuous and has been demonstrated to not be as concrete as once believed, in-game and seasonal stamina still are very much influenced by size, build, and strength. On the topic of injury, Finnegan left a start early in late April and skipped his next start because of shoulder stiffness. Nothing more has come of it, but it is worth noting that the young southpaw could currently be dealing with injury issues or could be predisposed to them. His delivery is somewhat max effort, tossing the ball across his body from a three-quarters angle. He repeats it well, though his long arm action sometimes jumbles his release point.
While there are questions about his body and physical make-up, no one doubts Finnegan's stuff. His fastball has gotten steadily better throughout his college career, and it now sits in the low-to-mid 90s, touching 97 or 98 miles per hour. His slider was once a below average pitched, but it is now a plus pitch. He has a third pitch, a solid changeup that can be a legitimate MLB pitch with a little extra development. He can throw all three for strikes and has exhibited good control of all three over the course of his career, though his Rodon-influenced slider is new, and the wipeout break that it has still needs to be tamed.
What Alex Nelson Thinks
Brandon Finnegan has some outstanding stuff, but questions about his stature, mechanics, and health could push him out of the first round. Take those three elements out of the equation, and you'd have a clear top ten pick. Finnegan has been a steady, three-year producer for TCU, and he's actually gotten better as he's gotten along. Scouts love to see that. Furthermore, his fastball will sit 92-to-94 and brush 98, and his secondary offerings are very promising as well—his slider is a mid-80s pitch that will flash plus, and he also throws an above-average changeup.
The best part? He throws quality strikes, usually hitting his spots. Unfortunately, he has those three issues. He's small, he has a high-effort delivery with late elbow pronation, and he's been complaining about shoulder pain this spring. The talent is there, but you'd be betting on a pitcher with a potential shoulder issue who might already be damaged goods. Proceed at your own risk.
"Finnegan was the best winless pitcher in college baseball in 2013, as a lack of run support doomed him to an 0-8 record at Texas Christian. His record wasn't initiative of the quality of his stuff or the way he pitched, however. His stuff has ticked up a notch this spring, and he has been on of the most consistently dominant pitchers in college baseball."
"He's short, has an electric arm and good secondaries. His command needs to improve and his delivery is a bit more complex than I like to see but it adds to his deception. He's kind of a bulldog on the mound and that always makes me like the player a little bit more."
—Matt Garrioch, minorleagueball.com