The Class AA level is considered the proving ground for prospects. If a player succeeds here, the major leagues are not far away. Class AAA is often a waystation for players on the way up, a repository of former big-leaguers looking to stay in the game. The Texas League is where Royals prospects can display their worth.
On Friday night, after his fifth consecutive breezy start for Class A Wilmington, Brandon Finnegan learned he had received a promotion to Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Finnegan, the No. 17 pick in this June’s draft, has been a dominant force in his brief tenure as a professional, and is on a path that could delivery him to the majors by late next summer.
The Royals have not publicly ruled out the concept of Finnegan aiding the big-league club in relief this season, but that possibility does appear somewhat unlikely. He is tabbed for 45 to 50 innings this season, has already thrown 15 and is slated for another four-inning stint with the Naturals in his next start.
After that, the team will evaluate how to proceed with him. He is likely to begin next year at least at Class AA.
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Yet Finnegan’s efficiency is forcing the organization to at least contemplate their options with him. When director of player development Scott Sharp watched Finnegan in one of his first appearances, he saw Finnegan only require fastballs in two quick innings. He used all his pitches in another start with Sharp on hand, but there was little duress in the outing.
"He’s not had guys on," Sharp said. "He hasn’t pitched under stress. He’s been in the strike zone. So his innings, if you want to use the term, have been very low-mileage innings, my perspective, from what I’ve seen."
Finnegan lacks projection. At 21, he stands just 5-11. But he is an advanced college pitcher, blessed with confidence and a useful arsenal to back it up. His slider and changeup complement a fastball that reaches the mid-90s.
"He’s very focused," Blue Rocks manager Darryl Kennedy said last week. "And he’s a very advanced pitcher, mentally. He throws strikes with all his pitches. He knows how to pitch. He knows when to change speeds, when not to."
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