Our offseason player review series continues today with Kyle Finnegan, who turned plenty of heads as a 28-year-old rookie reliever.
PLAYER REVIEW: KYLE FINNEGAN
Age on opening day 2021: 29
How acquired: Signed as free agent, December 2019
MLB service time: 1 year
2020 salary: $563,500 (prorated $208,704)
Contract status: Under team control, arbitration-eligible in 2023, free agent in 2026
2020 stats: 1-0, 2.92 ERA, 25 G, 0 SV, 24 2/3 IP, 21 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 2 HR, 13 BB, 27 SO, 1 HBP, 1.378 WHIP, 159 ERA+, 3.76 FIP, 0.3 fWAR, 0.9 bWAR
Quotable: “I’m just happy I have been able to kind of endure the grind of a major league season so far, albeit a shortened season, but it’s grind nonetheless. Trying to be able to be a guy that can take the ball every day, that’s what I’ve been working on.” - Finnegan
2020 analysis: Finnegan’s signing last winter didn’t generate a lot of attention, but the fact the Nationals were willing to sign a 28-year-old with zero major league experience to a big league contract suggested they were high on him. And by the end of the season, it was clear why they felt that way.
Though he toiled away in the Athletics’ farm system for years, Finnegan always had a good arm. The Nats were able to make the most of it, starting him out in lower-leverage situations but then gradually moving him into a higher-profile role as his performance merited it.
Ten appearances into his career, Finnegan still hadn’t allowed a run and had 10 strikeouts against only two walks. He endured through a brief bump in the road in midseason, getting scored upon in four of seven outings. But he finished strong, with eight consecutive scoreless appearances while moving into a more prominent role as others in the bullpen were lost to injury or ineffectiveness.
2021 outlook: Finnegan has a big league arm, of that there’s now no question. He just needs to show he can perform consistently at this level. The Nationals have every intention of finding out if he can.
What made Finnegan successful this year? He was able to get ahead of the count with his fastball, then use his off-speed pitches to put away hitters. Against righties, he went to his slider, which opponents hit at a paltry .143/.129/.190 clip. Against lefties, he utilized his changeup, which was even more effective (.100/.113/.100).
Durability will be an issue as Finnegan tries to prove he can hold up through the rigors of a full, 162-game season. But as we’ve been saying with all the other relievers we’ve profiled this week, the deeper the Nationals bullpen is, the less manager Davey Martinez will need to rely on Finnegan and company, and the less likely they’ll be to suffer injury.