by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
At the end of 2015 we saw the emergence of Anthony Desclafani, and despite injuries he parlayed that breakout into a strong 2016 campaign. The question now is if Brandon Finnegan can follow in those footsteps after he finished ’16 with an incredibly impressive second half:
Obviously the strikeout number ballooned, and it’s not like there wasn’t more upside than his first half number (8.9% SwStr%). Of course you could also argue that his second half mark was a little inflated, as it came courtesy of a 10.5% SwStr%. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, so maybe he’s not a strikeout per inning pitcher but he could easily be around 8-8.5 K/9 (9.4 K/9 in the minors).
That’s going to make him worth considering, but even in the second half there were some highly concerning numbers hanging over him:
Over his minor league career he posted a 4.3 BB/9, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it was an issue. He did show some improvement (3.13 in August), but he then quickly reverted back posting a gaudy 6.23 over the season’s final month.
He’s hardly a groundball pitcher (38.1% in ’16), and resides in a favorable home ballpark for hitters. Those two things are never going to pair well, and it led to a 1.86 HR/9 at home (not that anyone would brag about his 1.20 mark on the road). It’s impossible to think that he’s suddenly going to find a way to keep that in check.
Throw in the elevated line drive rate and a lot of luck (even a .274 BABIP) and it comes together to put a significant red flag on his “breakout” performance. Could Finnegan, a former first round pick, figure it out and post a strong 2017 season? Absolutely, be he’s also not a pitcher we’d label as a lock to breakout or someone we’d go out of our way to target. Strikeouts are nice, but there are ample pitchers who could match (or exceed) his upside there and bring with them more impressive skills in other areas.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference