Sometimes, late round picks in the MLB Draft are often overlooked. Once signing bonus money is standardized, fans often look over some prospects. For the Yankees in 2021, they may have hit gold in the 15th round. With the 453rd pick in the draft, the Yankees selected RHP Danny Watson. Watson hails from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he led the Rams to an NCAA Regional appearance. The 6’7 righty has been developed as a great bullpen piece in the lower minor league levels. Here is a recap on his Yankee journey thus far:
Time in Tampa
After being drafted, Watson was placed in Single-A with Tampa. Only making three appearances on the year, Watson had a bit of trouble adjusting to professional baseball. His final line for the brief 2021 season was a 16.88 ERA in 2.2 IP with a 2.625 WHIP. Watson had experienced trouble commanding the strike zone in college, but his pitch shapes and characteristics showed intrigue. The small sample size should have settled some nerves for evaluators regarding his season’s performance.
After the 2021 season, Watson was again assigned to Tampa in 2022, as he hoped to settle into the swing of pro ball. Watson made improvements over his 38 appearances in ’22. His ERA was down to a more reasonable 4.01 in 58.1 IP. However, he still had issues with his control. He walked 36 batters and hit 13 more in his first full minor league season.
Renaissance in 2023
When the 2023 Opening Day rosters were announced around the affiliate teams, Watson found himself in High-A with Hudson Valley. Soon, Watson would become one of the most trusted arms in the Renegades bullpen. In April and May of this season, he made 15 appearances, allowing 4 ER in 24.1 IP. His 39 K to 8 BB showed marked improvements from last year in Tampa.
At the end of May, Watson’s play earned him a promotion to Double-A with the Somerset Patriots. Since arriving in Somerset, he has been one of the best relievers in the entire minor league system. He currently has the second lowest WHIP in the Eastern League, among pitchers with a minimum of 20 IP (.81 WHIP). He has seen his fly ball % increase since he has reached Double-A, though that should not be an issue if he can avoid giving up the long ball. Opponents in Double-A are only hitting .131 against him with a .467 OPS thus far.
In all likelihood, Watson will finish the 2022 season in Somerset. He will continue to prove that he has found great command of the strike zone. His frame is an intriguing aspect of his game, as the Yankees have been a team to prioritize similar body types in the past coming out of the bullpen.
The 2024 season will be pivotal for Watson for a few reasons. First, after reaching Double-A this year, he will hope to make an immediate impact in the Triple-A bullpen starting early next year. His progression will hinge on his ability to induce soft hit balls in play and continue his strikeout metrics. Secondly, Watson will become Rule 5 eligible following the 2024 season, meaning that he must be added to the 40-man roster by the end of next season if the Yankees want to keep him around.
There is a lot to be excited about as Danny Watson continues his drastic improvement in the Yankees’ farm system. The progression in his pitching should cause intrigue for other late round prospects in the past two draft classes as well. Seeing that the Yankees have spent a lot of their late round draft picks on college pitchers, maybe there is a method to their madness in developing some of these arms. Watson’s name might be able to crack some prospect rankings lists in the next year if he continues at his current pace. Surely, he will be a name to keep an eye on!