Brandon Finnegan shook off his suit jacket and slipped into the crisp uniform of his new organization. His name gleamed across the back, as did the No. 1. designation.
"Fits, right?" asked Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg as he watched the No. 17 pick in this month’s draft button up the white jersey.
"Yeah, it fits," Finnegan said, drawing a chuckle from his family seated nearby.
Finnegan, a 21-year-old left-hander from Texas Christian University, appeared at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday afternoon, having completed the necessary paperwork to join the Royals. He signed for a bonus worth $2,200,600, the full amount for his draft slot, according to people familiar with the situation. After he debuts in Class A Wilmington next month, his goal for his first professional season is simple.
"Make it as high as I possibly can," he said.
Last fall, Goldberg received a phone call from a pair of his area scouts, Chad Lee and Greg Miller. They had just met with Finnegan, who was coming off an 0-8 sophomore season at TCU. Finnegan, the scouts told Goldberg, believed himself capable of besting big-league hitters. That conviction has not changed.
"I just have confidence in myself," Finnegan said. "A lot of people say I’m like C.J. Wilson or Derek Holland. I like to think I am. I’m a big fan of David Price, too. He’s a bulldog on the mound. That’s how I take it when I’m on the mound.
"Now, I’m not 6-4. I’m only 5-11. But I feel like I’ve got the stuff that’s good enough to pitch in the pros right now."
His new employers will opt for a more cautious tack. Finnegan will fly to Wilmington on Monday, and his professional debut is at least 10 days away. Finnegan tallied 105 2/3 innings for the Horned Frogs. Team officials project him capable of throwing about 45 to 50 more this summer.
For now, the team has not ruled out the possibility Finnegan could aid the big-league club as a reliever during a playoff chase in September. General manager Dayton Moore stressed multiple times on Saturday "we’re not going to put limitations on Brandon or any of our guys."
"It’s about winning in the major leagues," Moore said. "We’re going to use all our of players and all of our resources to do that.
As Moore spoke, Finnegan nodded along in his seat beside him. Despite his zeal for promotions, the Royals will remain cautious with him. The team needs to see how he adjusts to the professional lifestyle and the improved level of competition. And, of course, there is his health.
Finnegan missed three weeks in April and May because of inflammation in his shoulder. He returned with a vengeance after the layoff, and his fastball registered in the mid-90s as TCU reached the College World Series. Granted more time to rest after his team was eliminated, he said, "I feel better than I have all season, honestly."
His production was impressive. He posted a 2.04 ERA and yielded only a trio of home runs. Finnegan struck out 134 batters, a mark of 11.41 per nine innings.
"This year my out pitch was definitely my slider," Finnegan said. "I didn’t give up very many hits on it. That’s what I use in a two-strike count. I can put people away with my fastball, too. If I wanted a quick out, I could just throw a changeup, and they’d roll over to third base. So all three of them worked for out pitches this year."
In the coming weeks, the Royals will see how that arsenal plays against professionals. Their hopes are high.
"We selected him with our No. 1 pick, so we expect him to be an outstanding, major-league pitcher," Moore said. "Everybody’s time frame’s a little different. He certainly has the stuff to get major-league hitters out. It’s a matter of transitioning and going into professional baseball and starting to move up the ladder."