The Boston Red Sox promoted right-handed pitcher Brandon Workman to the major league roster yesterday. His big league debut brought mixed results: four hits and three runs on a home run in two innings, but he also struck out four batters.
Workman was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the third round in 2007 from high school in Bowie, Texas. He did not sign and went to the University of Texas instead, where he posted a 5.06 ERA with a 49/20 K/BB in 53 innings as a freshman in '08. He took a larger role in 2009, with a 3.48 ERA and an 82/28 K/BB in 75 innings for the Longhorns, then went 12-2, 3.35 with a 101/23 K/BB in 105 innings as a junior in '10.
This earned him a spot in the second round of the draft, garnering an $800,000 bonus from the Red Sox. He didn't make his pro debut until 2011, where he posted a 3.71 ERA with a 115/33 K/BB in 133 innings over 26 starts for Greenville in the Low-A South Atlantic League.
He began 2012 with High-A Salem, posting a 3.40 ERA in 20 starts with a 107/20 K/BB in 114 innings. A late promotion to Double-A Portland resulted in a 3.96 ERA with a 23/5 K/BB in 25 innings. He opened '13 at Portland, posting a 3.43 ERA with a 74/17 K/BB in 66 innings. Moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket in June, he went 3-1, 2.80 in six starts with a 34/13 K/BB in 35 innings.
Overall, in 371 minor league innings Workman has a 3.49 ERA with a 353/88 K/BB and 345 hits allowed. His performance metrics hardly budged between A and Double-A, very consistent from level to level. He maintained a good strikeout clip in Triple-A, but his walks and hits deteriorated a bit, enough to spike his FIP to 4.76 despite the pleasant 2.80 ERA. However, the Pawtucket sample is small and he pitched very well in five of his six starts there.
Workman is a 6-4, 195 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born August 13, 1988. His fastball varies between 89 and 96 MPH, averaging right around 92 when used as a starter though he can throw a bit harder more consistently if used in the bullpen. He was mainly a fastball/curveball pitcher in college, but in pro baseball he's added a cutter, a true slider, and a changeup to his arsenal. Although none of his pitches are outstanding, none of them are bad either, and his ability to throw strikes helps them play up.
Workman doesn't have the easiest mechanics in the world and in college there was some worry that his delivery could cause shoulder problems. Despite this concern, he's been very durable, holding up to a full workload since he was a college sophomore with no significant physical issues or deterioration of velocity. At this point his injury risk appears no higher than any other pitcher his age.
For now it seems that the Red Sox will use Workman as a reliever, which seems like a reasonable way to break him in. Still, given his background as an inning-eating starter and his diverse arsenal of pitches, a chance in the rotation should come eventually, in Boston or elsewhere. You could certainly hear his name in trade rumors. However they use him, Workman is a solid prospect who lives up to his last name.