Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Though Finigan's rise through the system has not been as meteoric as many originally thought it may be, he has still put on an impressive display since being drafted in 2005 (7th round). Prior to spending four years at Southern Illinois, Finigan was busy setting numerous high school records, including hits, doubles, triples, batting average, and earned-run average. His dominance throughout high school – particularly during his senior season – earned him Central State 8 Conference Baseball Player and Athlete of the Year honors in 2001.
As a freshman playing two ways at SIU, Finigan posted a .310/.364/.395 line in 56 games and a 2.38 ERA in five relief appearances. His performance as a first-year player earned him an appointment as Honorable Mention on the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team. PJ continued to play both ways throughout his collegiate career posting a total line of .300/.364/.434 in 218 games, including 73 extra-base hits. On the mound, Finigan managed a 12-5 career record working mostly in relief, supported by a 3.68 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. During his dominating senior season with the Salukis, PJ posted a .388/.461/.592 line and earned 1st Team All-MVC honors as a shortstop and a pitcher, along with being named 1st Team All-MVC Scholar Athlete, and MVC Player of the Year. Throughout his collegiate career PJ participate in various summer leagues, including the Cape Cod and Central Illinois Collegiate leagues.
Upon turning pro the Tigers challenged him with an assignment to full-season ball with the West Michigan Whitecaps where he performed very well out of the bullpen. In 25 appearances, PJ notched a 2-2 record with four saves and a 2.39 ERA. His dominance in his first exposure to pro ball earned him a promotion to High-A Lakeland to start the 2006 campaign, where his dominance continued, logging nine wins (T-6th in FSL) working primarily in relief for the L-Tigers. A July promotion to AA-Erie saw him hit the first bumps of his young career, as he posted a 5.00 ERA in 27 innings for the Seawolves. The 2007 season started back at Erie for Finigan, but it was brought to an abrupt end with an elbow injury.
Finigan is an excellent athlete with a grace and smoothness about all his actions on the field. He has good balance throughout his delivery and a quick arm action that delivers pitches on a solid downward plane despite his relatively small frame. PJ is a heady player with an excellent understanding of his role as a defender on the mound. His background as a shortstop is very apparent in the way he fields balls and delivers throws to first base. He is adept at holding runners and has shown an aptitude for varying his delivery to the plate from the stretch.
PJ's fastball sits in the 90-92 range with good life late in the zone. He generates above-average sink on his two-seam fastball, successfully working it down and in to right-handers. He can dial his four-seamer up to 94 on occasion, but it comes at the expense of command and control. When in his comfort zone, Finigan has above-average command of his fastball to all four quadrants, and he is not afraid to bust hitters inside when necessary.
His slider is a potential plus pitch, with good two-plane break. He can work the pitch to the outside corner against righties, getting swinging strikeouts and weak grounders throughout the infield. He can also work his slider in from the back door against left-handed hitters, giving him a second pitch to help keep them at bay. PJ's change-up has flashed excellent potential in the past, but since moving to the bullpen full time, he hasn't continued to work with the pitch regularly.
As a sinker-slider pitcher that can generate plenty of groundballs, Finigan could fit nicely in a Major League bullpen. He has the intelligence and poise to pitch in any situation, on any stage.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG AA
After undergoing elbow reconstruction earlier this year, Finigan is likely to miss the bulk of the 2008 season. While recovery from such injuries has become more routine in recent years, PJ will have to work diligently to maintain his status as a solid relief prospect.
As mentioned, Finigan is likely to miss the majority of 2008, and may not be back on the hill with any regularity until the Instructional League season next fall. His recovery from this injury will determine his future in the game. PJ has the potential to be a very good Major League reliever.
At 25-years old, Finigan will likely have to make an impact quickly upon his return to game action, as there are many younger relievers dominating the lower levels of the system that will be looking to pass him on their way to the Major Leagues. Expect PJ to be handled cautiously next season with an eye towards a strong return in 2009 at either Erie or Toledo.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.