Baseball America is pleased to present Cape Cod League video this summer courtesy of OnDeck Digital, an exciting new company founded by former Southern California star and major leaguer Randy Flores. OnDeck is filming Cape League games in high definition from multiple camera angles, allowing customers to watch at-bats in a split screen that shows every pitch from behind the plate and from the side, alongside a panel displaying the game situation and pitch velocity. Customers can watch entire condensed games, or choose to only view clips of a particular player. For more information, visit OnDeckDigital.com.
After hitting .300 or better in each of his first two seasons at North Carolina State while showing promising athleticism and defensive ability in the outfield, Jake Fincher entered 2014 as a potential top-10-rounds prospect and a key player for a Wolfpack team ranked in the top five in the preseason. But he fell flat as a junior, and so did the ’Pack.
Fincher hit .267/.342/.317 this spring, with no homers and just eight extra-base hits in 202 at-bats. He went undrafted in June, then headed to the Cape Cod League to try to rehabilitate his stock.
He got off to a torrid start to the summer for Cotuit, hitting .450/.507/.567 through his first 19 games to climb to the top of the league’s batting leaderboard. He has cooled off a bit in his last five games, going 1-for-18 to drop his summer line to a still-robust .359/.419/.449 through 78 at-bats. He was solid for the Kettleers last summer too, finishing with a .295 average in 112 at-bats.
“As one scout said to me, ‘I don’t understand why he plays so poor in the spring and he plays so well for you up here,’ ” Cotuit manager Mike Roberts said. “I love him to death as a player because he’s kind of a wild stallion: incredibly aggressive, but not very polished. Because of the lack of polish, his game is very inconsistent. He’s a major league athlete—but there’s a lot of major league athletes. He’s got to become more of a complete and polished baseball player that dots the I’s and crosses the T’s.”
Roberts said he plans to focus on helping Fincher develop the mental part of his game as the summer continues. He said Fincher always shows up ready to play, is always “geared up,” but needs to do a better job making adjustments in the batter’s box.
“When he’s hitting, he overstrides,” Roberts said. “He’s been an overstrider since the day I met him. He has excellent hands and what I call buggywhip in the bat, excellent hand action, but his lower half absolutely eats him up. Because of the stride, certain pitches he cannot handle. He is finally awakening to that, so the next four weeks, we’re going to make that change here in the Cape. He’s got to make it. I think he’ll have a chance to play pro baseball, but if you’re not successful, you’re not going to be there very long.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound Fincher hits from the right side, but Roberts said he plans to “toy around” with using Fincher as a switch-hitter, a possibility he has already discussed with N.C. State coach Elliott Avent. If he can do it, he has a chance to significantly increase his value.
“Fincher turned around for me one day, he’s got beautiful hand action from the left side,” Roberts said. “I think he’s a Mookie Wilson-type guy, and Mookie didn’t start switch-hitting until he left South Carolina and graduated the same year. We’ll see.”
Fincher isn’t the blazing runner that Wilson was, but he has solid speed and good baserunning acumen, helping him steal 12 bases in 13 tries this spring and 32 bases in his N.C. State career. He has also made significant strides with his outfield defense.
“I was not comfortable with him in center field in the summer of 2013; I was barely comfortable on the corners,” Roberts said. “He is a much-improved outfielder. Whatever he did at N.C. State roaming the outfield, I do like him as a center fielder now. He’s a true college center fielder. He has a good arm in the outfield, but instead of staying behind the ball and making the ball fly the same way every time, he still slings the ball. He’s got to stay behind the ball and let the ball fly the same way every time.”
Roberts said he is determined to help Fincher make that adjustment this summer as well. Fincher is still far from a finished product, but he does have ability. He just needs to harness his tools. He’s making progress.
“He’s very capable of doing it, but it’s time,” Roberts said. “He’s going into his senior year. He’s got to do it now.”