Matt Barnes, RHP
There's still little reason to like Barnes' ERA, but at the same time, he's punching out nearly 11 batters per nine while keeping his walk rate at a reasonable level. The ball is staying in the yard, and if not for an ugly hit rate and .379 batting average on balls in play, things would be going a lot differently overall.
Of course, some of the BABIP could be his doing -- Barnes has command of his excellent fastball, but his other pitches remain a work-in-progress, so it's believable to think that he's causing some of his own issues on occasion with wrong place, wrong time offerings. Combine that with a small sample of nine starts, a minor-league defense behind him, a home park that loves its doubles, and it's pretty easy to see how someone could get here by late-May.
It's also easier to believe it's all temporary when you consider that Barnes owns a 2.25 ERA in five May starts over 28 innings, with 33 strikeouts against eight walks. He'll have to string that sort of production along for longer than that to make it completely convincing, but it's a great sign considering his late-season wilting and the push to tougher competition in Double-A.
Brandon Workman, RHP
Workman has hit a bit of a rough patch this month after a ridiculous April, posting a 5.32 ERA in his four starts and 22 innings. Not a whole lot has changed in the numbers besides his ERA, but he had one start that's dragging things down a bit, when he allowed five runs in 5-1/3 innings on May 10. The things that could have been concerns for Workman have not been to this point, at least not from what his numbers say, as he's keeping the ball in the yard and missing plenty of bats.
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The 24-year-old now has 76-2/3 career innings at Double-A, with 9.7 strikeouts per nine, 4.4 times as many punch outs as walks, and an ERA of 3.87. He hasn't quite dominated for an extended period of time yet, but that's not unexpected: Workman still resides in between dominating reliever and mid-rotation starter, and the kind of growth and strides he makes -- or does not make -- this season could inform the decision of his role in 2014 at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Drake Britton, LHP
Britton is another hurler somewhat caught in the middle, but it's tempting to keep him in the rotation as long as possible given he's left-handed. He was looking much better as of four days ago, but on May 19, the southpaw allowed five runs in 5-2/3 innings, pushing his ERA up nearly half-a-run. It is worth mentioning that Britton has also had nine unearned runs score against him -- counting unearned runs against a starter in the minors is a bit unfair for a variety of reasons, but it's something to pay attention to, at least, as his Run Average is significantly higher than his ERA at 6.51.
Part of that is the same kind of thing we can say about Barnes -- small sample, minor-league defenses, etc., and Britton even has the added benefit of being more grounder-oriented. At the same time, Britton is 24, with just under 132 innings at the level, and has a 4.10 ERA. He's been okay, but not so good that you'd change your mind about him as a starter if you've already decided his future is in relief.
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