Brandon Finnegan was dealt back in July as part of the package for Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto. The Reds have transitioned Finnegan into a starting role in the minors, but he hasn't exactly set the world on fire since joining the team. In eight starts for their AAA affiliate in Louisville, Finnegan has a 6.53 ERA with a strikeout per inning, but 17 walks in 30 1/3 innings. With Finnegan potentially in line for a September call up with the Reds, that will make five teams Finnegan has played for this year - Northwest Arkansas, Kansas City, Omaha, Louisville, and Cincinnati. When asked about his whirlwind season, Finnegan expressed frustration.
"The Royals kind of screwed me over this year," Finnegan said. "I wouldn't have done what I did if it wasn't for them last year. But you could tell they just didn't have a clue what to do with me."
"I like starting," said Finnegan, selected 17th overall by the Royals in the June draft. "Once I'm in that mentality, it's one of those things where it can get pretty scary for other people. Getting back into it has been tough, but I've got a great team to do it with. These guys have been very welcoming."
He clarified his comments later on Twitter.
Anyone that knows me knows that I'm beyond grateful for the Royals and the opportunity they gave me. I would never bad mouth the team that— Brandon Finnegan (@bfinny29) September 7, 2015
Gave me a chance to pursue my dream, like I said I loved the organization and the team and miss them but I'm now a Redleg and happy for— Brandon Finnegan (@bfinny29) September 7, 2015
All the opportunities I've been given— Brandon Finnegan (@bfinny29) September 7, 2015
I'm not saying I was misquoted. But I never felt, or meant to say, anything bad about the KC org. I'm grateful to Royals for everything.— Brandon Finnegan (@bfinny29) September 7, 2015
To be honest though, he's not really wrong.
Brandon Finnegan burst on the scene last year after the Royals drafted him in the first round in the June draft out of TCU. He skyrocketed through the system, making five starts for High-A Wilmington, and eight relief appearances for AA Northwest Arkansas before the Royals promoted him to the big leagues in September. He made seven relief appearances for the big league club with a 1.29 ERA and 10 strikeouts in seven innings. He was kept on the post-season roster and gave up just two runs in five relief innings until his Game Four implosion.
Finnegan came into spring training with a chance to compete for a bullpen spot, but poor outings in Arizona allowed the team to send him to Northwest Arkansas to work on starting.
"We just felt that it was better for him to go down," manager Ned Yost said. "He had a huge workload last year. He hasn’t been real sharp in spring training. Just get him back down and get him going again. And have him ready for whenever we need him."
After just two starts however, Finnegan was back up in the majors - as a reliever. The Royals were short-handed after a thirteen-inning affair against the White Sox, so they brought up Finnegan. Of course, he spent the next three games sitting around, not developing his pitching. After 12 days in the majors and four relief appearances, Finnegan was optioned down to make room for Luke Hochevar coming off the disabled list.
Except this time in the minors, Finnegan was a reliever. He was a long reliever, but the team seemed to no longer be interested in stretching him out to be a starter.
"I don’t think he’s doing anything really different, he’s just not starting the game," Sharp said. "I think it’s just a utilization of how he’s going to be used up here. But we’re still giving him about the same number of pitches, the same number of innings."
He was promoted to Omaha for a relief appearance before finding himself back in Kansas City to replace Danny Duffy, who landed on the disabled list. After one relief appearance in Yankee Stadium, Finnegan was back down to make room for Jason Vargas coming off the disabled list. When Vargas re-injured himself just over two weeks later, Finnegan was back, making eight relief appearances in a month. After exhausting the pen in another extra-inning affair, the Royals shipped Finnegan back to Omaha to make room for Yohan Pino and Kris Medlen. A week later, they dealt him to the Cincinnati Reds.
Finnegan certainly hasn't proven he can start since leaving the Royals, but we'll never know how he would have done this season with a full year of starting under his belt. The Royals may have had their reasons for treating Finnegan they way they did. Perhaps they saw him helping the team most as a reliever this year. However, the constant yo-yo season is how teams typically treat a fringe prospect, not one of the franchise's top pitching prospects.
It's possible the Royals saw him as a starting pitcher at one time but have since soured on that notion due to secondary pitches not progressing as quickly as they would like. Perhaps they were less than enamored with his off-season conditioning. Perhaps they have suspected for awhile that his ceiling was as a reliever and tried to keep from exposing him as a starter to avoid decreasing his trade value.
Whatever the reason, it's hard to say Brandon Finnegan is wrong.