The Royals selected Watson with the 33rd-overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft from Lawrence North H.S. (IN). Now entering his age-21 season in 2018, he will have to take steps forward to remain on the prospect radar after largely struggling through his first three seasons as a pro.
The tools that led to his seven-figure bonus are still evident. He’s a physical 6’2’’ and 195 pounds and runs his fastball to the middle 90s at his best, same as he did leading up to the draft three years ago. He’ll occasionally snap off some big league caliber sliders in the 83-to-85 mph range that show moderate depth and a late turn, but effort in his delivery causes variance in the quality of his breaking stuff. He’s still fairly raw with a changeup (80-to-82 mph) and curveball (76-to-78 mph), though he will work with a four-pitch mix starting games at present. There’s effort in his release, and throughout my look at him this spring, Watson didn’t show much feel for fastball movement or location. His fastball is heavy and occasionally features some run in the zone when he’s working down, but it’s generally a fairly straight pitch that catches a lot of plate.
The Royals envisioned a durable mid-rotation starter when they took Watson in the draft. For a point of reference, he would be eligible for the 2018 Draft as a college junior had he not signed with Kansas City, so it is too early to close the book on him entirely. That said, without improvements to his control and pitchability, he could be destined to focusing on developing the FB/SL combo in a bullpen role.