Tigers’ Workman breaks through with grand 2-HR game

Detroit Tigers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Gage Workman’s first starting gig since turning 23 years old also marked the first multihomer outing of his pro career during Salt River’s 12-0 victory over Scottsdale at Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday night.

Workman, who celebrated his birthday Monday, swatted a solo home run to right-center field in the fourth and clobbered a grand slam to left-center field in the fifth. The Tigers prospect joked afterward that he must have obtained some newfound 23-year-old power that allowed him to utilize both outfield gaps.

“I think it’s just trying to sit back on the ball,” Workman said. “Trying to let it get deep and hit it to all fields.”

Workman played high school baseball (Basha HS in Chandler, Ariz.) just 21 miles from the scene of his first two Fall League homers. His time spent with the Rafters has been a homecoming of sorts for the Chandler native, who went on to play at Arizona State for three seasons. Workman roped an RBI triple in his first at-bat back at Phoenix Municipal Stadium during the AFL tripleheader at the home of the Sun Devils on Saturday.

“I’ve got family up here somewhere, they’re at every game,” Workman said. “So it’s cool to play in front of them.”

Despite playing a veritable home game each time he steps on the diamond in the premier fall circuit, Workman had been off to a slow start. He entered the night 4-for-32 with 15 strikeouts for the Rafters, but he drastically pivoted his second half in the right direction with hits in each of his first three at-bats Tuesday.

Workman is the rare prospect who comes to Arizona on the heels of a full Minor League campaign. Detroit’s fourth-round MLB Draft choice in 2020, he spent the entirety of the year with Double-A Erie, which played for an Eastern League title. In total, Workman logged 128 games and started at either shortstop or third base for all of them, amounting to a ton of time on his feet in just his second season of pro ball.

“I feel good,” Workman said. “It’s been a long year, a lot of games. But just the way the Fall League is set up, we only play a few games a week. It’s nice on the body, you usually feel good most days.”

Salt River’s latest victory was certainly one of the good ones. Workman presents a fascinating prospect profile, as he accumulated at least 30 doubles and 30 stolen bases for the second straight season. But the switch-hitting infielder also struck out 206 times over 515 plate appearances (40% K rate), third highest among qualified Double-A batters. The Fall League presents an opportunity — even when taxed after a full campaign — to continue honing his skill set.

“There’s always things you’re working on, trying to get better [at],” Workman said. “Obviously, focusing on the positive always.”

For now, a substantial positive is that Workman lives five minutes away from where he went to high school and he boasts numerous friends and family members in attendance at every game. Still seen as an athletic and toolsy prospect, he has the chance to further showcase his abilities over the final three weeks of AFL action.

The bottom of the Salt River order brought the lumber in convincing fashion during the Rafters’ rout. Workman, alongside Tanner Morris (Blue Jays No. 18 prospect) and Mike Antico (Cardinals) combined for five homers and 11 RBIs, with Antico joining the Workman in the multihomer department. Similarly, Antico’s two convincing shots to right field marked his first time leaving the yard during the AFL.

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