The BoSox Injection team is grading the performances from every player of the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Next up is relief pitcher Brandon Workman.
It was a spotty year for Brandon Workman, filled with trips up and down between the Boston Red Sox and their Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox. It was a combination of Workman yielding mediocre pitching performances, and Boston having other bullpen arms in mind when experimenting to find their number one guy.
Three years removed from undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Workman signed a 1-year, $835,000 contract with Boston in January 2018, avoiding an arbitration hearing. However, Workman did not perform as well as the team had hoped during spring training, and he started the 2018 MLB season with the PawSox.
In early June, Workman was called up to the majors after starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz went down with an injury. During the span of June-July, Workman pitched to a 2.89 ERA before being demoted back to Triple-A to make room on the big league roster for the newly acquired Nathan Eovaldi.
When Chris Sale went on the disabled list, Workman took his place on the roster from late-July to mid-August. He again pitched well, as he pitched to a 1.59 ERA in a small sample size of 5 2/3 innings. Sale returned for only a short stint, during which Workman was sent back down, but he was brought back up when the Red Sox ace found himself on the disabled list again. Workman remained on the Boston roster for the rest of the regular season.
In 2018, Workman pitched to a 3.27 ERA over 41 1/3 innings of relief. He recorded a 37-16 K/BB ratio over that time. For a while, it actually appeared that Workman was the Red Sox most reliable guy coming out of the bullpen. When the second half of the season struck, and the big relief names such as Joe Kelly and Ryan Brasier faltered, paired with Matt Barnes‘ injury, Workman was the guy to rely on. Because of his strong second-half showing, Workman earned himself a spot on the ALDS roster in the rivalry match-up with the hated Yanks.
Workman made three relief appearances in the postseason, which included both the ALDS and ALCS. Over that span, he allowed 5 runs in the equivalent of 1 inning pitched. Due to his lackluster postseason performance, and the need for a lefty arm coming out of the ‘pen, Workman was replaced on the World Series roster by Drew Pomeranz.
Overall, Workman had himself a mediocre season. He did not establish himself as a consistent go-to guy for the Red Sox. If it weren’t for his short spurts of success and being a generally reliable guy in the times of woe for the Red Sox bullpen, he probably would be more of a C-. The fact that the Red Sox continued to demote and promote him showed that they were not confident in his abilities and he was not a priority for them, especially when the bullpen was already packed full of right-handed arms.
Compared to his other seasons in the big leagues, however, Workman did significantly better. In his first year with the BoSox in 2013, Workman had a 4.97 ERA paired with a 47/15 K/BB ratio over 41 2/3 innings. As previously mentioned, he pitched almost the exact same amount of innings in 2018 but had a much lower ERA and a more impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio. This showing of improvement over time helped his cause. But if you add in his unimpressive 2018 postseason performance, the results are some that don’t stick out.
Looking ahead to 2019
I expect Workman to be with the Red Sox in some proportion next year. He is currently in the later stages of arbitration, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he reaches a one-year deal yet again with Boston to avoid it, with all indications pointing to the idea that it will be lower than last year’s deal. His role will be dependent on how actively Boston and Dave Dombrowski pursue bullpen arms in the free agency market in order to replace the likes of Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.
With an abundance of quality arms available, and all signs pointing towards the Red Sox certainly signing a couple pitchers, look for Workman to again be more in the minor league system for the Sox, with short stints in the big’s here and there (barring a trade or outright release). In short, Workman’s 2019 projection with Boston looks shaky and inconsistent, similar to his MLB track record.