Gage Workman has been quietly making a name for himself under the shadow of Spencer Torkelson.
From 2018-2020, all the focus for the Arizona State University baseball team was on first baseman Spencer Torkelson, and rightfully so. He broke the freshman home run record for the program and was poised to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.
But another Sun Devil was also making a name for himself: switch-hitting infielder Gage Workman.
Workman put up solid numbers during his freshman season in 2018, slashing .276/.339/.466 with an .804 OPS. But he really popped off in 2019, with his numbers ballooning to .330/.413/.528 with a .941 OPS.
Workman was putting together another solid campaign in 2020 before the pandemic shut everything down. He would go on to be drafted in the fourth round by the Detroit Tigers in 2020, reuniting with his college teammate in Torkelson.
“It was awesome,” Workman told Emily Waldon of Baseball America. “(Torkelson) called me right after and he was super cool about it. He’s a great teammate, so there’s not too many guys you’d rather play with.”
Workman split time with Low-A Lakeland and High-A West Michigan in 2021, slashing .246/.326/.434. He showed good contact and power potential, but arguably the most impressive thing about him was his baserunning ability, swiping 31 bags in 39 attempts.
Here’s what MLB Pipeline, who has Workman ranked as the Tigers’ 11th ranked prospect, had to say about his 2021 season:
"“Workman was a feast-or-famine hitter in his first pro season. He struggled with pitch recognition and was prone to swing-and-miss, but he usually crushed the ball when he connected. His home-run distances at High-A West Michigan rivaled those of Torkelson when he came through earlier in the year. Though Workman focused his offseason on picking up pitches better, he’s unlikely to sacrifice exit velocity for contact. By contrast, Workman’s baserunning was a revelation, helped in part by limits on pickoff throws at Low-A ball. Defensively, he is very good for his size, helped by quick first steps, solid reads and a strong arm. Given the Tigers’ recent emphasis on positional versatility, he could eventually see time back at third.”"
His tendency to swing-and-miss is something that dates back to his college days. He never had a strikeout rate below 25% at Arizona State.
So far in 2022, most of what was said about his 2021 campaign still checks out. In 21 games for Double-A Erie, he’s slashing .207/.253/.402 with just a .655 OPS. He’s still crushing the ball when he makes contact and he’s got 11 steals already, but the strikeouts have been even more of a problem than they were before.
Workman has struck out 39 times in 87 plate appearances. That’s about a 45% strikeout rate. Yeah, that needs to come down. A lot.
So we know how Workman profiles offensively, but how does he fare with the glove? Well, as Pipeline noted, one of the things the Tigers like about him is his versatility. He’s been playing lots of shortstop since turning pro, but who knows? They could always move him back over the hot corner. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Workman is one of the more intriguing prospects in the Tigers’ system. He has plus speed, a solid glove, and hits the ball hard. The power is starting to come along, but if can cut down on the swing-and-miss, the Tigers may have two Arizona State products in their infield in a couple years.