Why a 24-hour stretch shows how special Detroit Tigers prospect Gage Workman can be

Detroit Free Press

You want to see Detroit Tigers prospects grow and develop.

You want to see them learn from their mistakes.

And that brings us to Gage Workman, one of the Tigers’ most intriguing and likable prospects.

Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Workman realized something important. He had lost his focus for one game after going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in a 7-6 loss Saturday against Bradenton.

It was the worst game of his short minor league career, just his 16th game playing for Lakeland, the Tigers Single-A affiliate.

[ Tigers top prospects: Minor league statistics for 2021 ]

“You know what? It’s crazy,” Workman said. “You just get off your approach for one day. I just didn’t have the same focus that I’ve been having all week. Kind of got a little bit lackadaisical maybe in my approach. Baseball is a tough game, so any lapse in focus and it will get you.”

But here is the most encouraging thing for Tigers fans: Workman realized it and learned from it.

Then he went out on Sunday and hit for the cycle in a 20-7 victory (obviously, Lakeland missed the extra point in this wild scoring fest).

“I hit for the cycle one other time in high school, my freshman year,” he said. “So it’s been a long time.”

Think about that. In the span of 24 hours, Workman went from his worst game to his best game because he made an adjustment. That’s progress.

Workman, ranked No.12 in the Tigers system, is an intriguing prospect; a big, athletic, switch-hitting shortstop.

Just as significant, he’s smart enough to make adjustments.

“Unbelievable guy,” Spencer Torkelson told me during the fall. “He’s literally the perfect human.”

THE PERFECT HUMAN: Prospect Gage Workman and maybe Tigers’ missing piece

How Workman worked a cycle

Workman started Sunday off by hitting a triple in the third inning.

“Got ahead in the count in that at-bat and then just got a fastball to hit and squeezed it down the line,” Workman said. “You could run for days on that one.”

Well, not me, of course. But he did.

Workman homered in the sixth inning.

“The homer felt good,” he said. “I got to a full count there and I was choked up, just trying to put something in play hard. I had a good idea fastball was coming there. Got the head out and hit that ball pretty well.”

Choked up on the bat with two strikes? Call me old-fashioned but that’s wonderful to hear.

I only wish others would have that approach.

At that point, Workman started to think about the cycle and mentioned it to first baseman Griffin Dey: “I was like, ‘Look dude, if I get two more at-bats, I’m doing it — I’m getting the cycle.’”

Workman picked up a single early in the ninth inning.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Why Tom Izzo would love Tigers SS prospect Ryan Kreidler

Then, he got a bit of luck. Lakeland batted around and he came up again in the ninth. The game was so far out of reach that he faced a catcher who was asked to finish the game.

“My first thought was, I can’t get out by a position player,” Workman said. “That’s not good. But then, definitely second thought was, I have a chance to get it done here.”

Workman took the first two pitches; a pair of strikes.

“I was 0-2 and a little nervous there for a second,” Workman said. “It was a battle and I fouled off a couple pitches but it was a pretty clean double in the right-center gap.”

He had his cycle, lifting his batting average to .288 with a .911 OPS. He has 12 extra-base hits (two home runs, two triples and eight doubles) in 73 at-bats.

And on Monday, Workman was named the Low-A Southeast Player of the Week after hitting .385/.515/.808 with three doubles, one triple, two home runs and six RBI in six games.

“I feel like there’s not a huge sample size but I’ve had a good time,” Workman said. “I love my teammates. I feel like we have a really good team and we can do something in this league. So it’s been it’s been a great year so far up to this point.”

He is still adjusting to life in the minor leagues, learning the intricacies, especially playing six games in a row against one team.

“That’s definitely different because you’ll see at least one or two starters twice in the same week,” he said. “And then definitely a few relievers. As hitters, it’s kind of nice because we can keep our books and keep our charts on how they’re pitching us and kind of see that as the week goes on. But you definitely get used to the guys you’re playing.”

MORE SEIDEL: Meet the Dallas shortstop that caught the eye of Tigers legend Alan Trammell

‘Be a better teammate’

The Tigers drafted Workman as a third baseman with the fourth pick in the 2020 draft out of Arizona State.

But the Tigers plans changed during instructional ball.

“I get to instructs and they needed somebody to fill in at shortstop for a game,” Workman said. “So they could just get through a couple innings or whatever. I was happy to do it. I played shortstop in summer ball, so it wasn’t too foreign to me.”

He did fine. No, he did better than fine.

He proved that he could play short because is athletic and has a strong arm.

So that is where he has stayed. He still works at third base occasionally, but he is focused on short.

“I like it a lot,” Workman said. “I think I think I can hold my ground there with anybody. So I’m happy to be back there.”

He has been paired with Wenceel Perez, who is playing second.

“It’s awesome to have him around because he’s my translator when I’m talking to the other guys,” Workman said. “And he’s really good about teaching me different words. And then patient with me, because my Spanish is definitely a work in progress. But yeah, I’m trying to learn so I can really be a better teammate too because half your team speaks Spanish. So you want to be able to communicate with those guys.”

Here is a guy who chokes up on the bat with two strikes. Who wants to learn Spanish to be a better teammate. And he is smart enough to learn from his mistakes.

Like I said, there’s a lot to like about this switch-hitting shortstop.

And it goes deeper than than his power.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.

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