The Major League baseball playoffs are here. It’s where the MVPs and the All-Stars show what they got. In the Royals vs. A’s Wild Card game, Royals manager Ned Yost chose to entrust rookie prospects in crucial game situations. Six of the most important outs in the game were handled by Brandon Finnegan, drafted 17th overall in the June 2014 amateur draft, and prospect Terrance Gore was called in to pinch run with the team needing to score in the eighth inning.
This Wild Card game was supposed to be a pitcher’s dual decided by players involved in two of the more controversial trades in recent memory, James Shields and Jon Lester. Lester outpitched Shields, but by the time the moments got memorable, Finnegan and Gore were front and center.
Finnegan came out blazing, flashing upper 90s velocity and a sweeping slider that looked unhittable to lefties. He also showed a low 90s fastball that looked like something in between a cutter and a slider with late tail in on right-handers and away from lefties. This kid pitched in the College World Series three months ago and now he was on the Kansas City rubber in the final three innings of the biggest game Royals fans have seen since George Brett and artificial turf at Kaufman Stadium. Finnegan left quite the impression: 2.1 innings, 29 pitches – 18 for strikes, three strikeouts, and at one point he was on the hook for the loss. He didn’t get the win but he is a major reason that the Royals are going to Anaheim to play the Angels.
Finnegan is 5’11”, weighs 185 pounds, and can get his fastball into the upper 90’s in short relief and 92-94 as a starter from the left side. The pitch that guarantees Finnegan will be a major leaguer, either as a reliever or as a SP2, is his wipeout slider. He learned that pitch from White Sox 2014 top draft pick Carlos Rodon, and now it may be his ticket to a career in the majors. Rodon might have the best slider in baseball as soon as 2015, so he’s not a bad guy to learn from.
Finnegan should move through the Royals system quickly. If the Royals decide they need him in their bullpen in 2015, he could pitch 70 innings in Kansas City, which would slow his transition to the rotation for two or three seasons. If the Royals choose to develop him as a starter beginning in 2015, then he could be a Fantasy factor by 2016 or 2017 at the latest. He needs to continue to develop his changeup into an effective pitch, and there is some question about his ability to throw 200 innings due to his diminutive size. However, make no mistake; he has not made his last appearance on the big stage.
Terrance Gore was part of my September call-ups article and he did for the Royals what he was projected to do – pinch run and steal bases. Gore is Billy Hamilton-fast. Gore was promoted to Kansas City on September 2nd and with one official at bat Gore stole five bases. Yes, you read that right. Five steals – one at bat – zero times caught stealing. Six steals, if you count the Royals Wild Card game.
Gore is too much like Billy Hamilton. He struggles to hit for average and doesn’t walk enough, so he is a risky bet to get on base enough to utilize his plus-plus speed. He has no power; he’s hit zero home runs over his entire minor league career. A guy with his speed should have at least lucked his way into an inside the park home run, but he does not even have one of those. However, he has one elite tool that could make him a category factor. He stole 168 bases in 330 games over four minor league seasons.
Kansas City is an organization with a lot of speed and an approach that loves steals and doesn’t care about home runs. That works well for Gore. However, Jarrod Dyson is the major league version of what Gore could become, so besides his issues at the plate, he also has obstacles to getting major league at bats. With the potential to steal 70-80 bases and possible playing time as soon as 2015 or 2016, Gore is worthy of a place in your Fantasy minors roster.