Brandon Workman, a 24-year-old Texan, dominated an undermanned New Britain Rockcats lineup over six frigid innings last week. In 2010, he was selected out of the University of Texas by the Red Sox in second round of the Rule 4 Draft. In his first two full seasons he’s posted strong peripherals, striking out more than eight batters per nine innings and walking fewer than two. Early in 2013, he sits near the top of Carson Cistulli’s Eastern League SCOUT Leaderboard (see bottom of this post); but Workman’s statistics are misleading. He profiles as a reliever or as a spot-starter.
Workman is a large man. He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, but he weighs more than that. While he is well-proportioned, he’s thick and unprojectable. His arm slot has been noticeably higher in 2013. In prior years, Workman used a three-quarter arm slot. Against New Britain last week, he was nearly over the top. His arm action was stiff and ridged and it’s unlikely his fastball gains more velocity should he move to the bullpen.
His arsenal consists predominately of an over-the-top fastball and a slider. Due to his high release point, Workman’s fastball works on a downward plane — but it features only slight sinking action. On a freezing night it sat between 88 mph and 92 mph and touched 93 mph. It’s an average offering that will play up because of Workman’s command. When I saw him, the right-handed pitcher worked both sides of the plate with ease and rarely fell behind a hitter after the first inning. Once ahead, Workman punished the Rockcats with his 11-5 slider. Workman was able to throw it with consistent shape and within the strike zone. At times it broke too early, which will be problematic at the highest level, but his command of the pitch will make it an asset he can use in any count.
If Workman can tighten up his slider he could feature a solid one-two punch out of the Boston bullpen. If a need arises, he could be in the majors soon. He spent 25 innings in Double-A last season — so he isn’t exactly repeating the level — but he’s polished enough to make the jump.
When Workman’s night came to an end, Daniel Bard took to the mount. Bard was once a relief ace for the Red Sox and the heir to Jonathan Papelbon, but after a failed attempt to convert him to starter he’s struggled to regain his past form. After a one-inning outing it was clear the road back to Boston will be a long one. Bard’s control of his fastball and slider was erratic. His fastball, which once touched triple digits, sat merely between 92 mph and 95 mph and touched 96 mph. The slider still had wicked movement, but, again, his ability to control the pitch evaded him. It’s early and the season — and Bard still has a quick arm — but one has to feel bad for him after the botched conversion.
Those in attendance — RotoGraphs/Bullpen Banter’s Al Skorupa, scouts and myself — unanimously agreed Pete Ruiz has a future as a big league reliever. Ruiz started his two-inning stint slowly, but his fastball has plenty of arm-side tail and touched 94 mph. He also featured a slider and a curveball, which he could throw for strikes. The slider was a tight, low-80s offering with 10-5 horizontal movement; the curve had 11-5 action in the mid-70s. He missed away with his fastball at times, but he has a three-pitch mix he can use in any count.
Below is the current SCOUT pitching leaderboard for the Double-A Eastern League. SCOUT- combines regressed strikeout and walk rates in a kwERA-like equation to produce a number not unlike ERA-, where 100 is league average (in this case, for all Texas League pitchers) and below 100 is better than average. xK% and xBB% stand for expected strikeout and walk rate, respectively.
|Brandon Workman||Red Sox (AA)||24||3||3||18.0||62||25||2||28.7%||8.7%||75|
|Rafael Montero||Mets (AA)||22||3||3||16.2||62||21||1||26.1%||8.5%||82|
|Chad Beck||Blue Jays (AA)||28||6||0||7.0||32||15||3||26.2%||9.4%||84|
|Joel Carreno||Blue Jays (AA)||26||6||0||6.1||21||12||1||25.7%||9.2%||85|
|Chris Martin||Red Sox (AA)||27||4||0||11.0||39||15||2||25.2%||9.1%||86|
|Edward Paredes||Indians (AA)||26||5||0||6.1||26||11||1||24.4%||9.1%||89|
|T.J. House||Indians (AA)||23||3||3||16.2||64||18||2||23.8%||8.6%||89|
|Jameson Taillon||Pirates (AA)||21||3||3||18.0||70||20||7||24.3%||9.4%||90|
|Mauricio Robles||Phillies (AA)||24||5||0||8.1||30||11||1||23.8%||9.0%||90|
|Anthony Ranaudo||Red Sox (AA)||23||2||2||10.0||35||12||2||23.8%||9.1%||90|