Royals take TCU pitcher Brandon Finnegan in first round of MLB draft

06/05/2014 8:28 PM

06/06/2014 3:06 PM

Royals fans will soon get to see the team’s first selection in the baseball’s first-year player draft.

TCU left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan — whom the Royals chose with the 17th overall pick on Thursday night — is expected to start Saturday’s opener in the NCAA Tournament regional opener against Pepperdine.

Finnegan, who helped lead the Horned Frogs to the Big 12 Tournament championship and a second-place finish in the regular season, is 8-3 with a 2.07 ERA. He leads the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 12.02.

The winner of the TCU-Pepperdine best-of-three series will advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., the following week.

Finnegan said his fastball clocks between 92-96.

“The hardest I’ve hit was 99,” Finnegan said.

Finnegan possesses above average ability on several pitches, said Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg.

“He’s developed a change-up which went from making him a borderline reliever/starter to definitely a full-fledged starter,” Goldberg said. “We think he has a plus slider and a plus change-up to go along with a plus fastball. He’s got the make-up, the command and the bulldog in him that we were looking for.”

The Royals were especially impressed by a performance last summer when Finnegan pitched for Team USA in an exhibition series against Cuba. He limited Cuba to three hits in seven innings while striking out seven.

“We wanted to target some advanced college pitching, and we were fortunate that Finnegan was there,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “We scouted him all last summer, had a chance to see him quite a bit this season and we think he’s going to be quality starting pitcher in the major leagues for many years.”

Finnegan received a scare when he left a start early for TCU on April 25 with soreness in his left shoulder. He said afterwards that he had slept on it wrong but took no chances and skipped his next scheduled start.

“There was some inflammation on the (throwing) shoulder, probably the way I slept on it,” Finnegan said. “It didn’t have anything to do with overpitching. I felt great after that honestly.”

In his last outing, Finnegan struck out 12 in TCU’s 2-1 victory over Siena in 11 innings at the Fort Worth Regional last week.

The Royals took another left-handed pitcher, Foster Griffin, with its second first-round pick, No. 28 overall. Griffin is coming off a high school season in Orlando, Fla. Griffin stands 6 feet, 5 inches. He committed to Mississippi but is expected to sign with the Royals.

The team’s second pick already was a Royal before being drafted. The First Academy, Griffin’s school, is nicknamed the Royals.

“He topped out at 95 (mph) this year,” said First Academy coach Scott Groves. “But he really pitches at 92, 93, and has an exceptional change-up and a plus curveball.

“He’s well developed for his age as far as being an overall pitcher, and does a great job with runners on. He’s a great pick for the Royals. The organization is going to be extremely happy to have him.”

In the Competitive Balance Round A, the Royals chose catcher Chase Vallot, who played at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La.

According to the Times-Picayune, Vallot helped his team win a Class 4A state championship while batting .545 with 62 RBIs, 15 doubles and 13 home runs.

With their final pick Thursday, the Royals selected 6-6, 210 right-hander Scott Blewitt from Baker High School in New York.

The Star’s Pete Grathoff contributed to this story.

Royals No. 1 draft selections since 2004

2014: Brandon Finnegan, lhp, (17th overall)

2013: Hunter Dozier, ss (8th)

2012: Kyle Zimmer, rph (5)

2011: Bubba Starling, of (5)

2010: Christian Colon, ss (4)

2009: Aaron Crow, rph (12)

2008: Eric Hosmer, 1b (3)

2007: Mike Moustakas, ss (2)

2006: Luke Hochevar, rhp (1)

2005: Alex Gordon, 3b (2)

2004: Billy Butler, 3b (14)

Royals No. 1 draft selections since 2004

2014: Brandon Finnegan, lhp, (17th overall)

2013: Hunter Dozier, ss (8th)

2012: Kyle Zimmer, rph (5)

2011: Bubba Starling, of (5)

2010: Christian Colon, ss (4)

2009: Aaron Crow, rph (12)

2008: Eric Hosmer, 1b (3)

2007: Mike Moustakas, ss (2)

2006: Luke Hochevar, rhp (1)

2005: Alex Gordon, 3b (2)

2004: Billy Butler, 3b (14)

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