The Kansas City Royals proved that they won’t be wasting any roster spots when they showed well-liked veteran Bruce Chen the door following his last ugly relief appearance. It’s not a publicity stunt; the Royals’ first round draft pick will be a significant contributor to the team’s fight for a 2014 playoff berth. Brandon Finnegan looked great with TCU this season, but if you blinked, you may have missed his quick-but-definitive rise through the minor leagues.
With a current dearth of left-handed strikeout specialists, this 21-year-old will be asked to get important outs for a MLB team in the midst of a playoff race. Royals skipper Ned Yost told the press that he plans to “ease him in his first time or two,” which mercifully calmed the spirits of all those fans expecting Finnegan to throw 150 pitches in his first big-league appearance. The matter of importance obviously isn’t his quantity of playing time, but the remarkable importance of the outs he’ll be expected to get for this ball club.
At a time when I’m aggressively staying positive in the face of disappointment, it would be unfair to stay quiet about the disconcerting fact brought to light by this addition to the September roster. The Royals are vying for a postseason appearance, and they’re completely without a proven left-handed firefighter. Finnegan’s 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings at AA Northwest Arkansas comes in an admittedly small sample size of 12 innings of relief, but that was apparently enough to make him a better option than Tim Collins.
Royals scouts tell Yost and the rest of management that Finnegan is the decisive choice for lefty reliever right now. As fans, all we can do is hope this is a sign of Finnegan’s future greatness and not a sign of Collins’ future instability. A strong 11.9 strikeouts/9 ratio for Collins would seem to indicate him as a good choice for a September call-up, but his 3.4 walks/9 ratio helps to explain why he’ll remain in the minors while KC fights for a spot in the playoffs. Finnegan’s walks per nine ratio in his 12 AA innings is 1.5.