Brandon Finnegan is the next Johnny Cueto

I’m not sure who approved that terribly misleading headline above, but that editor should be fired.

I’ve been saying for some time that I believe Brandon Finnegan has a real chance to stick as a good, middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Reds over the next few years. Yes, I know about his FIP and his SIERA and the other advanced metrics that show he has not been the best pitcher in baseball this year.

There are a couple of reasons I’m still bullish about Finnegan’s prospects. The first is neatly outlined in this piece from Jeff Sullivan over at FanGraphs earlier this season. Go check out the charts and graphs and all the fun stuff in that piece; what has stuck with me since reading it was his conclusion:

The signs are good for Brandon Finnegan as a starting pitcher. He’s working now with two fastballs, a slider, and a changeup, and he’s throwing everything with faith. I know I already put this comp on Carlos Rodon, but looking at Finnegan’s present repertoire, it’s again reminiscent of Francisco Liriano. The pitches are there, the speeds are there, and the movements are similar enough. Finnegan isn’t as good as Liriano yet, but it’s within his reach. The Reds should be delighted that he’s gotten even this far.

I still like reading that.

Another reason I continue to maintain that Finnegan has a future as a starter is more anecdotal: every once in a while he puts together a performance where he goes deep into games and just looks like he’s completely in control. Such as Friday night, as described by Nick Kirby in the Titanic Struggle Recap:

Tonight, eight of Finnegan’s first ten outs recorded were strikeouts. Finnegan ended the night with a new career high of twelve, the second highest total by a Reds pitcher this season. Finnegan finished the night allowing just three hits and two runs over six innings. That coming off his last start when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

More on Friday night’s outing in a moment…

Earlier this month, Matt Wilkes wrote this for Redleg Nation, asking whether Finnegan can be a starter long-term. His conclusion, in short: yes, if Finnegan can develop his changeup.

Okay, now back to Friday night. Check out this story by Mark Sheldon over at

The D-backs were given a surprise of sorts by Reds starter Brandon Finnegan, as he struck them out a career-high 12 times on Friday during a 4-3 loss in 11 innings. Finnegan not only has a changeup, but he’s figured out how to use it.

It’s a pitch manager Bryan Price considers essential for a Major League starter to master in order to have a credible repertoire and a potentially longer career. Against Arizona, Finnegan notched nine of his strikeouts by getting Arizona hitters to swing and miss on a changeup.

“Last time I faced these guys, I didn’t have a changeup,” Finnegan said. “They were definitely gearing up for a fastball matchup.” Of his 97 pitches in the game, he threw a changeup 23 times.

Finnegan credits teammate Dan Straily with helping to straighten out his changeup. Go read Sheldon’s piece for the details. Here’s the quote I liked:

“If yesterday was a glimpse to the future, I would say he just increased his chances of being a long-term Major League starting pitcher as opposed to a two-pitch pitcher that lends itself more to situational or some sort of bullpen piece,” Price said.

Keep those fingers crossed that Finnegan has actually developed a third pitch that can be successful for him long-term. He certainly needs it, in order to stick in the rotation, especially with all the young and exciting arms that are on the brink of establishing themselves in the big leagues with the Reds. I’m encouraged that he understands what he needs, and he’s working on it.

That, of course, brings me to the final reason I’m optimistic about Finnegan’s chances. Yes, he has had some bad moments this year, and his overall statistics aren’t anything to write home about. But he’s had much more success at the big league level, and shown more flashes of brilliance against MLB hitters, than any of the other age-23-ish pitching prospects in the Reds organization (I’m looking at you, Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett — all of whom I remain high on).

So yeah, Finnegan is just 8-9 with a 4.27 ERA this year, as a 23-year-old. But remember that, at age 23, one Johnny Cueto was just 11-11 with a 4.41 ERA.

You heard it here first: Brandon Finnegan is the next Johnny Cueto.*

*No, he’s probably not. Don’t bet the ranch on that.


  1. Shchi Cossack says:

    Your underlyng point bears emaphasis. These are young pitchers and young pitchers struggle at the major league level. The 2016 season represents the future, not the present. The Reds turned over their entire pitching staff this season when injuries to Bailey and Disco are factored in along with the young pitchers just getting their first significant taste of regular major league competition. The inconsistent results were expected. Pitchers failing initially and heading back to the minor leagues to work out the problems with a better understanding of what is required at the major league level was expected. Inconsistency upon returning from injuries and long layoffs was expected.

    Soon, very soon in some cases, pitchers will begin reaching limits on their IP for the 2016 season and other young pitchers will have additional opportunities for a taste of majoe league competition. We really won’t know what lessons took and what lessons remain to be learned until next season, but we should begin seeing definitive results as some pitchers lay solid, consistent claims to the startin rotation and bullpen positions. How soon that happens in 2017 may dictate how competitive the Reds will be as a team in 2017.

  2. Hats for Bats says:

    Someone with more knowledge about pitching feel free to correctly , but the reason so people were bullish on starting is because of his size. If I remember correctly from previous reports people within the industry doubted his ability to hold up over a full season. Glad he is adding to his arsenal and am sure he will contribute to the next good reds team as either a 2-3 starter or closer.

    1. ohiojimw says:

      I think it is correct that some said he lacked the size to be a starter. I wonder what Tom Browning would say about that? (Per BBRef:TB 6’1″, BF 5’11” and I suspect neither is as tall as listed) 🙂

      1. lwblogger2 says:

        Or Roy Oswalt. Or Mike Leake.

    2. Old-school says:

      He was a very good starter in college at TCU and was the #17 overall pick. Because the Royals were in the midst of a World Series run, by circumstance, he was thrust into the bullpen as the best fit for what that team needed at that time. The Reds gave him an opportunity to start with the rebuild and he is competing to stay there. Fun to watch the competition and the young pitchers/players lay it on the line.

  3. ohiojimw says:

    Bryan Price talked in code on his pregame last night when Marty popped the question about Finnegan’s 2017 role.

    MB framed the question by saying it would appear Finnegan had a rotation spot locked down going into 2017 ST, doesn’t he?. BP said something about his numbers were really good but sometimes it came came down to what role team needed most and whose talents from the pool of available talent most closely fit those needs. Then he added with that said Finnegan had pitched well and shown development in the rotation,

    Still, I’m guessing if Price is around to have a say, unless injuries or lack of performance play a major role in settling the rotation, he’s already visualizing a back end of the bullpen featuring Iggy, Finnegan, and Lorenzen.

    1. Indy RedMan says:

      Horrible waste of resources! I guess Finnegan might be throwing 95 out of the pen but a team always needs to cover the first 6-7 innings before they can worry about making it to the end! I’d put all 3 in the rotation if they could hack it but Iggy seems to prefer the pen and has a slighter frame so that’s the one I might leave in the pen!

      1. ohiojimw says:

        I think it is a legitimate point of debate given the apparent depth of their starting talent.

        Would they ever lose a lead in the 7th, 8th or 9th with Iggy, Finnegan, and Lorenzen covering if the manager was willing to let one of them go 2 innings on any given day? Maybe once a month?

        Then then other side of the coin you presented, how many fewer leads would there be to protect because these three were held back as protectors.

        I’m not sure there is a quick, easy, and clearly correct answer at this stage.

  4. wizeman says:

    I am really happy with the progress we have made this season. Once we were able to field a competitive pitching staff we have been extremely competitive.
    I know that this is a stat that has been bypassed by new criteria… and I have learned a great deal of analytics on this site. I spend far more time with basketball analytics so time escapes me…. but please bear with me.
    The month of August saw us have the 4th best era in the national league.
    I think Price is great with young pitchers and I hope he gets extended. Having new pitching coach and Price up here has helped a lot.

    1. ohiojimw says:

      I’ve wondered to what degree the uptick in the pitching has been due to closer cooperation/ coordination between Price and Jenkins than there was between Price and Riggins. Perhaps Jenkins is more comfortable serving as a conduit for Price’s expertise than Riggins was?

      1. cfd3000 says:

        I wouldn’t discount a bump from Ted power, the intangible power of Ted Power. I think he adds a lot to the Reds pitching brain trust.

        1. Shchi Cossack says:

          Teddy Power is a huge organizational asset. What we gain with Ted Power in Cincinnati, we lose by not having him in Louisville. I’m just glad he’s still in the organization, no matter what capacity he maintains.

  5. Daytonian says:

    I’m with you, Chad. Finnegan is capable and is getting better. He stays in the rotation. Good work, Chad!

    If everyone stays healthy next year, we have only one spot open in the starting five:

    Homer, DeSclafani, Finnegan, ……….., Strailey.

    That’s good news. The competition will determine which of the youngsters fills that blank. I’m encouraged!

    1. Shchi Cossack says:

      Through the looking glass today, that looks like a pretty good prediction. If that’s how it pans out, the advantage of holding 2-3 young starters at AAA before grinding their service time provides additional long-term benefit by staggering the young pitchers to take over as other pitchers become pricey through arbitration.

    2. Matt WI says:

      Here, here. I’m on this bandwagon and happily so.

  6. Steve Schoenbaechler says:

    I like Finnegan, also. I mean, he’s stepped up against some of the best pitchers in the league this year and beat them. I believe he still needs some seasoning.

    I remember someone had him stepping into a reliever role next season. I don’t see that. He’s done nothing to deserve it. No one has stepped up to warrant moving Finnegan to a reliever role.

    1. lwblogger2 says:

      I was one of the ones saying that he needed a 3rd pitch so was probably bullpen bound. He also needed to work on his command for bullpen or the rotation. Looks like that changeup could be a solid 3rd pitch. His command has also improved. Lastly, he has built up his innings. I agree at this point that he should be in the rotation until someone beats him out. He’s done enough to deserve a spot there going into 2017.

Comments are closed.