Searching for Saves: Is Boston’s Brandon Workman A Closer Worth Targeting?

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I can come up with adjectives to describe closers, and let’s be honest not that many of them are good or complementary. Owning closers is a mundane process filled with stress and volatility, but it is one of the 10 categories where we earn points. We can’t afford to be negative, stomp our feet or ignore the category. There is the risk of your beloved draft pick not making it out of April on your roster or as fantasy relevant, but everyone is operating under the same set of circumstances.

A critical factor to remember is that this is not just a pre-season task. You simply never know who will emerge or where they will come from. Track records and advance notice is optional.

So that brings us to one of my favorite targets for 2020, Brandon Workman, who has done the job for just half a yeart. Whether it is against my better judgement is a different story that we can evaluate come September, if not sooner.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my targeting of Workman is the price. Quite simply, he is more than affordable and at the current cost he’s a calculated risk with a good amount of reward. Currently he is the 68th pitcher coming off the board with an ADP of 181. Other closers, with just as robust track records and the same amount of questions who are being drafted prior to Workman include:

  • Hector Neris – 148
  • Emilio Pagan – 165
  • Hansel Robles – 169
  • Jose LeClerc – 171

Entering last season Workman wasn’t on the fantasy radar of most as he was just another middle reliever with the Red Sox. Then something seemed to click.

Along with 10 wins out of the bullpen in what was clearly a career year, he saved 16 games after moving into the closer’s role in the second half. With the Red Sox attempting to stay under the luxury tax they didn’t make any additions to their bullpen, so Workman enters 2020 in the same role he finished 2019 in.

I’m surprised that it took this long to get to the most remarkable stat about Workman (talk about burying the lead), but by now I’m sure you have it committed to memory. In 135 batted balls against him last year, just one was barreled up. As remarkable as it was, and it speaks to the level of success he had, we can’t expect him to repeat it.

From a skills standpoint he increased his average velocity from 91.3 mph to 92.9 while also seeing increased movement on both his cutter and curveball. Workman did benefit from a microscopic 3% HR/FB rate, which isn’t repeatable, but he increased his groundballs to 51% while dropping his fly ball rate to 29%. The final stat line left him with a 10-1 record, 1.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 71.2 innings.

All of this is positive, and a 2.46 FIP could be a lot worse, but have to go into this with a little bit of caution. There is concern that a rough stretch will bounce Workman right out of the role, but Boston doesn’t have much in the way of other alternatives.

It’s hard to top what Workman did last year, and there are a lot of metrics that back up his success. Even allowing for some natural regression he is still one of the better options for the 2020 season.

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