Can Brandon Workman make it as a starting pitcher?


Today’s meltdown, in which he allowed 6 runs (5 earned) across just 3 innings in a loss to the Orioles, was just the latest chapter in a long line of disappointing performances for Brandon Workman. Through Workman’s last ten starts, the rookie right-hander has been absolutely terrible, posting a 6.99 ERA and going an abysmal 0-8 in that timeframe, raising his ERA to 5.27 on the season.

With such a poor performance in 2014, it’s hard to remember how promising Workman appeared when he debuted for the Red Sox last season. Workman no-hit the Oakland Athletics for six innings in his Major League debut and showed the potential to be a very useful arm in 20 games (3 starts). Despite his mediocre 4.97 ERA, there was a lot to like about Workman’s 10.2 K/9 and 3.43 FIP , not to mention his playoff performance, in which he tossed 8.2 shutout innings out of the bullpen.

One year later, however, it appears that Workman’s true talent level as a starting pitcher may lie closer to that 4.97 ERA than it does to his impressive peripherals. Still, there’s always the chance that Workman can tap into his potential after a move to the bullpen, a move which has been considered a possibility for the 26 year old throughout his Minor League career.

Workman has a solid fastball, which sits in the low 90’s but has been clocked well into the mid 90’s when he really gears up, and that would likely play up in shorter stints. He also has a good 12-6 curve which would provide a good secondary offering in relief. The issue lies in Workman’s tertiary pitch as his change is yet to develop into an above-average Major League pitch; however, while a third pitch is necessary for starting pitchers, Workman would be able to get by with just two good pitches in relief outings.

And then there’s the depth factor.

With other teams, Workman would probably get an extended look as a starting pitcher. However, considering all of the pitching prospects seeking Major League experience this September such as Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Matt Barnes, the Red Sox have too many mouths to feed to continue starting Workman every fifth day.

While he may be a solid spot starter or long man, the Red Sox likely know what Workman is capable of doing and, in a lost season, his starts should go to less known quantities such as the previously-mentioned pitchers. However, that’s not to say that Workman should never start for the Red Sox. If none of Webster, Ranaudo, or Barnes appear to be capable starters, then Workman will likely gain a more extended look. At the time, though, he has the lowest ceiling of the bunch and his role should be adjusted accordingly.