I’m not sure who approved that terribly misleading headline above, but that editor should be fired.

I’ve been saying for some time that I believe Brandon Finnegan has a real chance to stick as a good, middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Reds over the next few years. Yes, I know about his FIP and his SIERA and the other advanced metrics that show he has not been the best pitcher in baseball this year.

There are a couple of reasons I’m still bullish about Finnegan’s prospects. The first is neatly outlined in this piece from Jeff Sullivan over at FanGraphs earlier this season. Go check out the charts and graphs and all the fun stuff in that piece; what has stuck with me since reading it was his conclusion:

The signs are good for Brandon Finnegan as a starting pitcher. He’s working now with two fastballs, a slider, and a changeup, and he’s throwing everything with faith. I know I already put this comp on Carlos Rodon, but looking at Finnegan’s present repertoire, it’s again reminiscent of Francisco Liriano. The pitches are there, the speeds are there, and the movements are similar enough. Finnegan isn’t as good as Liriano yet, but it’s within his reach. The Reds should be delighted that he’s gotten even this far.

I still like reading that.

Another reason I continue to maintain that Finnegan has a future as a starter is more anecdotal: every once in a while he puts together a performance where he goes deep into games and just looks like he’s completely in control. Such as Friday night, as described by Nick Kirby in the Titanic Struggle Recap:

Tonight, eight of Finnegan’s first ten outs recorded were strikeouts. Finnegan ended the night with a new career high of twelve, the second highest total by a Reds pitcher this season. Finnegan finished the night allowing just three hits and two runs over six innings. That coming off his last start when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

More on Friday night’s outing in a moment…

Earlier this month, Matt Wilkes wrote this for Redleg Nation, asking whether Finnegan can be a starter long-term. His conclusion, in short: yes, if Finnegan can develop his changeup.

Okay, now back to Friday night. Check out this story by Mark Sheldon over at MLB.com:

The D-backs were given a surprise of sorts by Reds starter Brandon Finnegan, as he struck them out a career-high 12 times on Friday during a 4-3 loss in 11 innings. Finnegan not only has a changeup, but he’s figured out how to use it.

It’s a pitch manager Bryan Price considers essential for a Major League starter to master in order to have a credible repertoire and a potentially longer career. Against Arizona, Finnegan notched nine of his strikeouts by getting Arizona hitters to swing and miss on a changeup.

“Last time I faced these guys, I didn’t have a changeup,” Finnegan said. “They were definitely gearing up for a fastball matchup.” Of his 97 pitches in the game, he threw a changeup 23 times.

Finnegan credits teammate Dan Straily with helping to straighten out his changeup. Go read Sheldon’s piece for the details. Here’s the quote I liked:

“If yesterday was a glimpse to the future, I would say he just increased his chances of being a long-term Major League starting pitcher as opposed to a two-pitch pitcher that lends itself more to situational or some sort of bullpen piece,” Price said.

Keep those fingers crossed that Finnegan has actually developed a third pitch that can be successful for him long-term. He certainly needs it, in order to stick in the rotation, especially with all the young and exciting arms that are on the brink of establishing themselves in the big leagues with the Reds. I’m encouraged that he understands what he needs, and he’s working on it.

That, of course, brings me to the final reason I’m optimistic about Finnegan’s chances. Yes, he has had some bad moments this year, and his overall statistics aren’t anything to write home about. But he’s had much more success at the big league level, and shown more flashes of brilliance against MLB hitters, than any of the other age-23-ish pitching prospects in the Reds organization (I’m looking at you, Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett — all of whom I remain high on).

So yeah, Finnegan is just 8-9 with a 4.27 ERA this year, as a 23-year-old. But remember that, at age 23, one Johnny Cueto was just 11-11 with a 4.41 ERA.

You heard it here first: Brandon Finnegan is the next Johnny Cueto.*

*No, he’s probably not. Don’t bet the ranch on that.