Breakout candidate: Tigers infielder Workman
MiLB.com's Breakout Candidate series spotlights players who could garner some serious attention in 2022. Here's a look at Tigers’ No. 14 prospect Gage Workman. As Detroit nears the end of its rebuild, Gage Workman may become an important part of its contender stage. The 22-year-old posted some of the most
MiLB.com's Breakout Candidate series spotlights players who could garner some serious attention in 2022. Here's a look at Tigers’ No. 14 prospect Gage Workman.
As Detroit nears the end of its rebuild, Gage Workman may become an important part of its contender stage.
The 22-year-old posted some of the most eye-catching numbers in the Minors between Low-A Lakeland and High-A West Michigan last year. Workman tallied 55 total extra-base hits and stole 31 bases across both levels in his first professional season. His 37 doubles were the second-most among players in the Minors. Anthony Volpe (Yankees) and Felix Valerio (Brewers) were the only other Minor Leaguers with at least 35 doubles and 30 stolen bases.
"It has not always been a part of the game, our college offense was really good -- we didn't have to steal a ton of bags," Workman told FOX 17 after his promotion to the Whitecaps in July. "It is something that I love doing, it is something that I just started doing, it is something I love doing, hopefully it continues here."
Workman also recorded 12 homers, six triples, 68 runs scored, 58 RBIs and 55 walks in 118 games. But despite his objectively impressive season at the plate, there’s still an expectation that he’s got a lot of work left to do with the bat.
Considering the offensive profile, it’s fair to consider Workman’s debut season an on-brand success. But a few improvements could catapult him into Top 100 consideration and cement his future in Detroit’s infield.
A fourth-round pick out of Arizona State in the shortened 2020 Draft, the switch-hitting Workman has profiled as a power-over-contact hitter since his days as an amateur.
He batted .246/.326/.434 across both levels and was much more productive from the left side of the plate, hitting .266 against righties and .179 in 340 fewer at-bats against southpaws. Workman had just five doubles against lefties with all of his other extra-base hits coming from the other batter’s box.
The Tigers’ No. 14 prospect also struck out 157 times across both levels. While teams have been willing to live with high strikeout totals in the modern game, Workman was one of just 21 players in the Minors to strike out at least 150 times.
Some of the best individual performances of 2021 -- like fellow Tigers prospect Riley Greene and Kansas City first baseman Nick Pratto -- appear on that list. But reducing his 30.6 percent strikeout rate and boosting his on-base percentage could be an elevating factor for a player with the power potential of Workman, who found competitive at-bats to be scarce before his first season in the Minors.
Detroit snagged Workman, who was a Draft-eligible 20-year-old, after making his Sun Devils teammate, Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick. Workman signed for a reported $1 million, which was almost twice as much as slot value. He played just 17 games at ASU in 2020 before the season was shut down by the pandemic.
"It was definitely the longest I have ever gone without playing baseball," Workman told FOX 17. "I think the biggest adjustment was just seeing live arms again, getting that timing back, getting a feel for the offspeed and just get comfortable in the box again."
The Tigers took similar approaches for Workman and Torkelson’s defensive development.
While No. 4 overall prospect Torkelson was primarily a first baseman who didn't play third at ASU, Detroit moved him to the hot corner for 43 games in his first Minor League season. Workman, meanwhile, only played one game at shortstop at ASU but gained a lot of experience there in the Cape Cod League. He played third in deference to now-Rays prospect Alika Williams at ASU, but Detroit saw he had the athleticism to handle the premium position and exclusively played him at shortstop for the entire 2021 season.
He made 20 errors in more than 950 innings at short between both clubs. While he certainly has the speed and athleticism -- his stolen-base totals could attest to that -- sure hands and arm strength to log some innings at shortstop in the Majors, odds are he and Torkelson would be on opposite corners of the diamond should they both make it to Detroit -- especially after the Tigers signed All-Star shortstop Javier Baez to a six-year deal in December.
As he matures and gets even stronger, some of those gappers and doubles could turn into homers and he’ll be more of a legitimate power threat. An uptick in his on-base percentage will afford him the opportunity to use that speed and athleticism to make a greater offensive impact while providing defensive versatility.
The production was there in 2021, but Workman has the tools to continue getting better. If that happens, he could very well be in the lineup with Greene and Torkelson in the Tigers’ next postseason appearance.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.