Watson’s career with the Phillies has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start, with shoulder surgery and a suspension in 2014, so the club will have a close eye on his development as he tackles his first full season at the Double-A level.
With limited room for physical projection his 6-foot-4 frame still to come, Watson already poses a commanding presence on the mound. During his delivery, his glove hand falls away from his chest toward home plate to give him some moving parts in the delivery, which may be the cause of his early-season walk issues (5.78 BB/9 over his first 19 innings), though it’s also inconsistent with the larger 2016 sample size of 3.3 BB/9 across two levels and 110 innings.
He throws an above-average fastball coming in on a sharp downhill plane that sat 91-to-93 mph (T94) with average control and command, but the pitch settled in at 91-to-92 mph the second time through the order. Easily above average with a chance to be plus, his changeup, thrown from the same release point as his other pitches, parachutes through the zone and has enough change in velocity (77-to-79 mph) to be effective, however he struggled at times with his feel, and his execution was inconsistent. He is confident in throwing the pitch down in the count, but command issues led to walks in this viewing. Watson has a fringe-average curveball, sitting 82-to-83 mph, but it’s lacking consistent shape and flattens out at times. Many were left up in the zone and he used it only when ahead in the count in this viewing.
Watson has the raw stuff to be as a number-four or number-five starter, but he will need to improve the repeatability and consistency of his delivery to limit the free passes and get the control grade to be consistently average. Improvements in those areas are not a stretch given that he’s still filling out physically and has just 250-plus innings of pro innings entering his fifth pro season. If he is unable to settle in with an average control and command profile, he could still find himself settling into a floor of a Role 45 swingman/middle reliever.