Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been an interesting camp for Brandon Finnegan. When the Royals arrived for Spring Training, there was some debate about where he would be pitching in the upcoming season. At times, it looked like he would be in the minors as a starter. At other times, it looked like he could be a piece in the big league bullpen.
The Franklin Morales signing pushed him toward the minor leagues, but the Tim Collins injury pulled him back up. Dayton Moore and Ned Yost were giving mixed signals about which way the organization was leaning, but finally, the team’s first-round pick from last year has total clarity, as he’s been optioned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
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Finnegan will be a member of what should be an absolutely loaded Naturals rotation. Sean Manaea, Miguel Almonte, Glenn Sparkman, and Christian Binford are just some of the names likely competing for innings in Springdale. In other words, if you can go to a game at Arvest Ballpark this season, do it.
The Royals do plan on keeping limits on Finnegan’s pitches and innings, likely for two reasons. First, they don’t want to push a young starter too hard, particularly after the long 2014 season he had. Second, Finnegan is a candidate for a late-season call-up, so the organization probably wants to make sure he still has something left, should he be needed in September and/or October.
This is unquestionably the right decision by the Royals. There is some uncertainty about Finnegan’s ability to stick in a rotation long-term, but considering how talented he is, it’s best to give him every opportunity to succeed as a starter before shifting him into a lesser role. If he can’t seem to put things together in the rotation, the Royals can reassess things at that point. Unless and until that happens, Finnegan should be developed as a starting pitcher.
The Royals also optioned Michael Mariot, Yohan Pino, Francisco Pena, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Reymond Fuentes to Omaha, while optioning Terrance Gore to High-A Wilmington. Brett Eibner and Parker Morin were reassigned to minor league camp.
Pena and Gore will undoubtedly be back in Kansas City in September, if not sooner for Pena, whose demotion officially confirms what we already knew: that Erik Kratz will serve as Salvador Perez‘s backup this year. Gore is one of the fastest men in baseball, but his bat is still a long way from being ready for the major leagues.
Mariot and Pino may see some big league action this season, as both are expected to provide some depth to the bullpen and rotation. Cuthbert and Fuentes are former top prospects who haven’t really achieved their potential, though they are both still quite young. Cuthbert is 22, and Fuentes is 24. The latter could be one of the first outfield call-ups this season if and when the need arises, since he is above average defensively and has tons of speed, both of which are highly valued by the Royals.
I wrote about Eibner last week, and while there may be some more optimism about his future, his 3 spring home runs and 8 extra-base hits in 26 plate appearances weren’t enough to keep him around the big league camp. Morin is a glove-first catcher who will likely be in Double-A in 2015.
This latest round of cuts leaves the team’s camp with 37 players. Major League Baseball only allows teams to have 25 players once games start. My calculator tells me the Royals still have too many players, so you can expect more moves to be made in the next week and a half.