UCF's pitching rotation just got a huge shot in the arm for next season.
Cre Finfrock, who earlier this month was drafted in the 26th round by the Milwaukee Brewers, announced last week that he would forgo the professional ranks (for now) to continue his baseball career at UCF.
A right-handed pitcher from Stuart's Martin County High School, Baseball America had rated Finfrock the nation's No. 225 overall prospect prior to the draft. Signability concerns - Finfrock's asking price in order to skip college - precipitated his fall to a lower round.
"I was thinking I'd go between two and five rounds, but the money wasn't there," Finfrock said. "The Brewers then drafted me (in the 26th round). We've been thinking about it. My family and I decided going to college was the best option for me. In three years I can enter the draft again and hopefully be a first day pick."
After the season, UCF coach Terry Rooney said he hoped to be able to hang on to Finfrock but knew it would be a close call.
"(Last Wednesday) I called the Brewers and said, 'Thanks for the opportunity, but I want to pursue my career at UCF,'" Finfrock said. "I called Coach Rooney right after. He was the first person I got on the phone with. He was really pumped up. He said he couldn't wait to see me in a week and get the conditioning started."
Finfrock has been a UCF target since his freshman season, committing two years ago towards the end of his sophomore year. He signed a National Letter of Intent last fall.
"I just loved coming to the campus and I love the facilities," Finfrock said. "Their baseball facilities are top notch. On top of that, I wanted to play for Coach Rooney. He has a great pitching background, having been at LSU and all those schools. I know he'll help me in the years to come."
According to his MLB.com profile, Finfrock has a fastball consistently clocked in the low 90s and has topped out at 96 mph. As a high school senior, he posted a 4-2 record in eight starts with a 2.36 ERA, striking out 51 and walking 14 in 35.2 innings pitched.
"I think my best stuff is my pitchability, my ability to hit all pitches for strikes in any count," Finfrock said. "I'm going to keep working hard. I know I can always work on all my pitches, like getting my fastball more on a downhill plane."
He said his favorite player is Craig Kimbrel, the standout closer for the Atlanta Braves. Finfrock has a similar frame at around 6-feet tall. He's a little lighter than Kimbrel, weighing 190 pounds.
"I really like the way he pitches and dominates the game," Finfrock said.
Finfrock could be an early favorite to earn a spot in next year's weekend rotation. The competition is wide open as this past season's ace, Eric Skoglund, recently signed with Kansas City following his third-round selection. Zach Rodgers, who closed and pitched in long relief in 2014, also could be a weekend starter option.
"Coach Rooney has been saying that for the past year, that I'd come in and be one of the starters," Finfrock said. "I'm not sure where I'd be, one, two or three, but I'd like to work my way up to take Skoglund's No. 1 spot."
Finfrock will officially make the move to UCF later this week so he can enroll for the upcoming Summer B session.
"I'll be getting on a lifting program, meet with a dietary person to talk about nutrition and then schedule all of my classes," Finfrock said. "I think it's mid-July when I'll start a throwing program which will go into the fall season."
He'll be coming to UCF with his close friend and teammate, fellow right-handed pitcher Bradley Rowley. He's also friends with signee Kyle Marsh of Port Orange (Fla.) Spruce Creek, another right-hander.
"We've been talking about everything the last couple of years," Finfrock said. "Coach Rooney has said he wants me to come in and help lead the team to Omaha. I know everybody has to play a part in that, but that's what we're going to try to do."