2016 Reds

Brandon Finnegan: What to Expect

The Reds have finally come to terms with the fact that band aids and duct tape can’t patch up the gaping holes in the roster. They seem fully committed to making the tough decisions that will lead to the next winning team, even if I’m not sold on some of the moves they’ve made thus far. While I’m unsure of what to expect from this front office, I am over the moon to see more young talent infused into the organization, especially when it comes to young pitching.

The overhaul of the starting rotation began with the trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon last winter and continued with the Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto trades. In those deals alone, the Reds received the following pitchers: Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, John Lamb, Keury Mella, Anthony DeSclafani, and Jonathan Crawford. That’s not a bad group. While Cody Reed looks awfully impressive, the biggest prospect the Reds obtained at the time of these deals was Brandon Finnegan.

As we get closer to Opening Day, it has become apparent that the Reds intend to put Finnegan in the rotation to start the season. They have clearly tried to stretch him out this Spring, giving him starter’s innings or what suffices for starter’s innings during the beginning and middle of Spring Training. In his poor showing last Sunday, Finnegan threw additional pitches in the bullpen to make sure he got to 80, a number we don’t expect to see from any Reds’ reliever this season. Other rotation competitors have fallen aside because of injury, performance, or both. Finnegan will be interesting to watch this year, along with how the Reds intend to handle him.

Finnegan has always had talent, but the Royals jerked him around between the rotation and bullpen, possibly stunting his development. We really can’t blame the Royals; they were in win now mode, and their use of Finnegan reflected that position. It’s well documented that Finnegan pitched in both the College World Series and the Major League World Series in 2014. Last season, Finnegan made seven starts and four relief appearances between the Royals’ AA and AAA teams. He also pitched 24.1 innings out of the bullpen for Royals Major League squad before they traded him to Cincinnati.

In Cincinnati, the Reds used him mainly as a starter, and he impressed in limited action with the big league club. But after being tossed between the rotation and bullpen in Kansas City, Finnegan only pitched about 105 innings in 2015, which makes it difficult to believe he can pitch a full season in a big league rotation this year.

Luckily, I guess, the Reds won’t likely be in playoff contention when they need to drop Finnegan from the rotation after 120-150 innings. If they believe in him as a starter, they need to allow him to really begin developing in that role because he hasn’t had much experience in a rotation yet.

With his limited experience, it doesn’t make much sense to delve into his xFIP or ERA numbers. His development has been wonky from the start and thus, I think we should look at his stuff, age, and command to determine what might happen this year and beyond.

Finnegan turns 23 this year, so it’s not like he doesn’t have time left to develop into the top flight starter scouts envisioned when he came out of TCU. He has a solid fastball that averages about 93 MPH as a starter, a tick more as a reliever. For a lefthander, that is above average. He also throws a slider, a changeup, and a different fastball that is nearly as hard as his main pitch. His slider is impressive and on par with the quality of his fastball. Finnegan’s changeup is average with potential left, and as his third offering, is good enough to get people out. His arsenal has never been the question.

Finnegan’s potential Achilles heel is his command. He walked 13.1% of batters faced at the Major League level for the Royals in 2015 and had even worse walk numbers in the minors. That’s really poor as a walk rate of about 7.7% is average. Ouch. In his six appearances for the Reds, he did a little better, posting an acceptable 8.2% walk rate.

His command issues both in and out of the strike zone were on full display this last Sunday when he allowed six runs on five hits and two walks in one inning of work. Finnegan also allowed a run on a wild pitch. His ability to harness his strong repertoire of pitches will determine his success this season and beyond.

Scouts are also concerned with his short stature (Johnny Cueto? Mike Leake? Are we really worried about this?) and his high-effort delivery. I only worry about the latter, which may suggest a move to the bullpen at some point.

But we can dream big on Finnegan right now. He has three good pitches and is extremely young. The Reds have time for him to develop. This season, we should pay attention to his command and the number of innings he pitches. If he cut down on his wildness, Finnegan could be a starter on the next winning Reds team. I expect him to struggle some as he returns to starting on a more consistent basis, but with his stuff, I also anticipate some impressive stretches of pitching.

21 thoughts on “Brandon Finnegan: What to Expect

  1. No question that Finnegan will join Iggy on the shelf at the end of the season, but both should have ~150 innings under their belts this season to demonstrate what to expect going forward. That would get both pitchers to 200 innings in 2017 and remove any restrictions on their work going forward. I am so pumped for the season to start and see the prospects working under pressure and real competition. The loses are going to be hard to swallow during 2016, but that pot of gold may be massive at the end of the 2016 rainbow.

  2. Command is a common problem with young pitching. He should be able to overcome that issue with experience. The more he pitches, the more he refines his delivery into something that can be replicated over and over.

    • This is certainly the hope and because of Finnegan’s strange development thus far and limited innings, I’m not too worried about the command yet. But it is something that needs to improve. Hopefully, it does as he gains experience, as you’ve said.

  3. Off topic but the Reds were apparently willing to eat $8-million of Bruce’s salary in moving him (according to Bob Nightengale of USAToday)???!!! When you’re eating that kind of salary, you’d have to expect a decent return. That also makes Bruce exceptionally affordable for some team to take a chance on. If the Reds are still willing to eat over half his salary, there may still be a chance Bruce is moved prior to opening day.

    • Bruce’s projected production is worth around $10.5 MM (1.3 WAR) and his salary in 2016 is $12.5 MM So basically they were trying to giving away $14 MM in surplus value. With that kind of surplus value they should have been expected to receive a top 50-75 hitter or 50 ish pitcher per Fangraphs. The expected return might be a little less now since those values were as of the end of 2014.

      • Reds won’t get nearly that. I don’t think teams are seeing that kind of potential for Bruce since he was so bad in 2014 and 2nd half of 2015. So, I don’t think they want to give up much in return, although with that much salary coming back, you’d think they would. Maybe the Reds are under-selling? Who knows really? Would love to be a fly on the wall for those negotiations.

        If I were the O’s, reading that, I’d be on the phone with WJ trying to get something done. At minimum, he becomes a nice bench bat and insurance policy for the corner OF.

    • It would be very interesting to find out just who those prospects were. This would make the rumored name of Toronto prospect Max Pentecost even that more perplexing. Granted, Pentecost was a first round draft pick in 2014, and played in only 25 games that season. Then he had two shoulder surgeries on his throwing shoulder and was out all of 2015 and will be out most of 2016. I know he is an athletic player, but I don’t know what the Reds were thinking if he was actually the one in the trade proposal. It just didn’t seem like a fit at the time. Then I looked at his Fangraphs stats page and I see why the Reds were interested.
      In 2014, he had 109 PA’s at R and A- levels and hit rather well for average. But he had no power. In those 109 PA’s, zero HR’s, 4 doubles, 3 triples, 2BB’s, and 21 K’s. Athletic, no power and won’t take a walk. Now I see where they were going.
      Unless they had planned to move him to another position from Catcher, this just didn’t seem right for 1 year and possibly 2 years of Jay Bruce. Then give them $8MM to boot. He is 23 now. If he stays on the DL all year he won’t come back until he is 24 and his last level was A-. Perplexing.

      • He may have been one but what I’m hoping is that he wasn’t the marquee name coming back. Not if the Reds were going to send $8-million.

  4. Finnegan should be given every opportunity to show whether he is or he isn’t a starter. He is sorely needed in the rotation for the first couple of months this year, and at the very least he has about 10-12 starts to show what he has. Then when the others start returning from the DL, it will be decision time on where he fits best. I hope he succeeds as a starter.
    Once the starting rotation gets more established down the road this season, then the bullpen can start to get settled too for possibly the next 2-3 years. That bullpen has the potential to be scary good at just the right time. I think only one of Finnegan, Lamb, and Moscot survive to stay as a starter. But that is good for the bullpen.

  5. THOMisms overheard- “Easter Sunday is right there neck and neck with Christmas”

    -“What’s the difference between the Reds taking yesterday off or Easter Sunday off? Well, it’s a big difference but there’s no difference.”

  6. Just read in this piece on reds.com that Price now expects Bailey to be pitching in the majors on 1 May unless he suffers a setback

    http://m.reds.mlb.com/news/article/168896484/homer-bailey-ahead-of-schedule-post-tommy-john

    The article points out that the 1 May date would have Bailey back in MLB a week short of a year from his TJ surgery.which is several months quicker than the protocol preferred by Dr. Andrews; but, apparently OK with the “renowned” Dr. Kremchek who did Bailey’s surgery and is supervising his rehab.

    So, let’s take a step back. Simon signed; Bailey being pushed for 1 May, A rotation of Bailey, Simon, Iglesias, Desclafani and one of the other kids doesn’t quite fit the mold we’ve been assuming of a complete rebuild. Add the rumors that the Reds could be interested in Lohse or Lincecum. Could the Reds be encouraged by what they’ve seen in camp so far and be flirting with the idea of legitimately trying to compete for a WC run this year? If so, would it be wise or fool’s gold?

    • If the Reds have any designs on a WC run this year, they need their head checked, and not by Dr. Kremcheck!

      In the AL, sure… go for it. None of the teams are fantastic. But in the NL, the Cubs, Pirates, Cards, Met, Nats, Dodgers, and Giants would all need an atomic bomb of a season to drop below even a 95th percentile projection for this Reds team.

      • Don’t disagree with you on their likely (lack of) success. I’m just trying to make sense of why they are suddenly trying to push Bailey up 3-4 weeks over what they’ve said previously.

        I don’t see the additional 5 or so starts having that much impact on his trade value should they be looking to flip him at the deadline; and; every one of those starts is an additional exposure to a possible breakdown. So, the risk/ reward doesn’t add up for me in terms of “shopping” him.

      • Patrick, you are most likely correct BUT i am tired of hearing everybody saying how bad the Reds will be this year. Granted, we do have the Cubs, Cards, and Bucs in our division and the Mets, Nats, Giants, etc. in our league but this is baseball and we all know there are always surprises and preseason predictions often look very silly by season’s end. I’m not saying that the Reds are going to compete for a playoff spot but i am saying to completely rule it out before they’ve even taken the field seems a bit extreme.

        • The odds on this are extremely, extremely long; but, more than a possible WC run for the Reds, I believe the thing to watch for would be something weird happening inside the NL Central which creates a situation such as 2006 when the Cards won the division with 83 wins.

          And to be clear this would not be a situation any org could ever foresee or plan for. It’s an outlier. It would be something like the top 3 teams fighting tooth and nail with none of them creating any significant separation and in the process lowering all their win totals. Nobody in the division putting up big W numbers versus the east or west (remember the the two projected powerhouses in each of those divisions) however with the bottom two Central teams treading water compared to the top three in this area. The Reds and Brewers manage to hang in looking like mid 70 win teams, which given the number of intradivisional contests further erodes the win numbers at the top. Then bang. One of the bottom two gets on a run at the end of the season like Rockies in 2007 (14-1 to end the season).

          That’s the kind of craziness it would take but such things have happened and likely will happen again.

  7. League rules require them to have a pitcher each game. It seems to me that they’re simply looking in the bargain bin for some fallback options in case some of the younger guys are disabled early on.

    With Simon and perhaps another stiff, they can avoid rushing guys back and starting the clock on Stephenson……all for about what Jay Bruce will make before Memorial Day.

    I love the “renowned” Kremcheck reference……I wonder if Elvis’ doctor was considered renowned as well.

    • The “problem” could be that because of the trades they didn’t/ couldn’t make the position side might be reasonably strong, especially if Meso can stay on the field and perform as he has given indication of so far, Add in a couple of guys to the rotation who’ve been around the block and perform at league average level, get the expected improvement from Disco and Iggy and suddenly it falls to the bullpen to assure they don’t win “too many” games.

      “Too many” is probably looking like a .500 team coming to the AS break. In that situation there would be a building pressure to use some of the pitching talent that had been held back to fill the gaps or even as trade bait. And that’s not to mention that Winker, barring injury, will be ready to throw into the fray.

      Could this be the org that can mess up just starting a rebuild? We will see.

      • The Reds already picked up an established innings eating starter in Simon. A good move in my opinion. I would rather they try to find a young player with potential to develop than spend money on veteran free agents.

  8. Perhaps Duct Tape can’t do the job, Nick, but do you have it on good authority that the Reds aren’t considering Gorilla Tape? I mean… it’s the logical next step, right?!

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