Matt Barnes, RHP
Barnes' ERA isn't pretty, but pretty much everything else is. He's striking out more batters per nine in the early going at Double-A than he did while with High-A Salem, and at least part of the hit rate can be attributed to minor-league defense and small samples. It's something to watch going forward, though: if it turns out Barnes' command of his secondary stuff is a source of all that extra batting average on balls in play, then he's going to have something serious to work through.
That secondary stuff -- his curve and his change-up -- aren't necessarily concerns, but they are potential issues. He needs to utilize them, and effectively, in order to succeed against lineups at the higher levels, like those he's facing right now in Double-A. It wasn't something he had to worry about in A-ball, as you can get by with a plus fastball and command of it there, as Barnes did. But as the competition evolves, so to must Barnes.
Brandon Workman, RHP
Workman is having no such issues in his return to Portland. He's racking up strikeouts, keeping walks to a minimum, flashing better command of his fastball -- and low in the zone, where it needs to be -- and has the sparkling ERA to show for it. Yes, it's under 30 innings, but his overall line from two partial years at Double-A now has a 3.18 ERA and 5.2 times as many strikeouts as walks. It's a very positive start for a pitcher who gets very little love for consistently productive performances.
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He's maybe not a big-league starter, however -- numbers aren't everything in the minors. The potential is definitely there for him, so long as he can use that control and keep his command at the level it needs to be against big-league bats. The question of whether or not he can do it might never come up, though, if other, more notable prospects take up rotation spots in Boston as they become available. At that point, you're left with Workman as a reliever, and if he can miss this many bats and consistently hit his spots as a starter, then he's going to be just fine, career-wise, in relief.
All of that is a ways off, though, and for now, Workman just needs to keep pitching well enough to earn that Triple-A promotion, joining fellow 2010 draftee Chris Hernandez in Pawtucket.
Drake Britton, LHP
Britton's performance has been somewhere in between those of Barnes and Workman. He's racking up the strikeouts, and posting an impressive -- especially for Britton -- strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, his ERA is just okay, and homers are a bit of a problem given Portland and the Eastern League aren't exactly a place where 1.1 homers is considered okay.
He's crossed the 100-inning threshold for his career at Double-A since last we checked in on him, and now has a 3.88 ERA, 8.3 strikeouts per nine, and a 2.2 K/BB in those 109 frames. He still hasn't quite convinced me that he's a big-league starter, but he's come a long way from his 2011 and early 2012 struggles, and as a lefty, he'll get his chances to stick in the rotation before Boston finally pops him in the bullpen full-time.
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