Over the last few seasons, the Oakland A's system has graduated a number of talented pitchers to the major leagues. It is no wonder the organization spent 10 of its first 15 draft picks on arms to replenish the system's depth. And when the team took flamethrower Kyle Finnegan in the sixth round, they saw something they liked.
Finnegan, a junior out of Texas State, comes to professional baseball having started collegiately, but likely projects as a reliever in the long term. He's perfectly fine with a potential transition to the bullpen.
"It's interesting because being a starter, you have so much control over the game," Finnegan said. "That's really appealing to me. Getting the ball, expected to go six, seven, eight innings.
"But it's also hard to shy away from the fact that you could be a team's closer and have the ball at the end of the game and pitch in those high-intensity moments when the game's on the line. I find that those types of situations probably bring out the best in me."
The 21-year-old right-hander has been clocked as high as 97, but lost some steam on his pitches later in games, leaving many to believe he's best suited in a relief role. He throws a slider that needs work, and a changeup that would need a great deal of development if he were to continue as a starter.
"I think I would love to be a starter and I'd take that and go with it, but I'd also love to be back end reliever," Finnegan said. "I guess whatever the coaches want me to do, I'm going to put 100 percent of my effort into it and go with it."
With a wiry 6'1" frame, Finnegan will continue to fill out with age. He gained 10 pounds of muscle this year, he said, putting him at 175. But more important than weight is his ability to dial up an explosive fastball.
The Kingwood, Texas native had his best year in 2012 when he posted a 3.28 ERA in 93.1 innings, allowing just 86 hits. He walked 26, leading to a solid WHIP of 1.20. As a junior this season, he saw a decline in his numbers when he had a 4.66 ERA.
"I think I was just a little bit inconsistent in the strike zone this year," Finnegan said. "And my walks were much higher than last year. That put me into some trouble and allowed some more runs to score."
Despite those numbers, he feels confident in saying he's a better pitcher now than he was in 2012.
"I think my stuff was better this year, but I had a little bit more trouble getting it in the strike zone and I think that caused some problems for me," Finnegan said. "But I figured it out at the end of the year and I threw my best innings at the end of the year. It's nice to have that confidence at the end of the year and I feel like I'm throwing the best I have right now."
Finnegan was on vacation this week, preventing him from signing with 25 other Oakland draftees on Tuesday. But when he returns home to Houston on Saturday, he anticipates signing without any hiccups and will await his first assignment as a professional.