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2021 Phillies Draft Preview: Khalil Watson, SS

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MLB: Philadelphia Phillies-Workouts
Not a High School Shortstop, just to be clear
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s draft season, so I’m talking draft. MLB, in this case. Baseball America released their 3rd mock draft this week, so their projected pick for the Phillies feels like a good place to kick this off. Prep Shortstop Khalil Watson is their projection. A lot of mocks have had him solidly top 10, but it wouldn’t surprise me, if this draft was like last year when High Schoolers dropped because of the limited views. A lot of High School season started later this year, summer showcases were more limited in 2020 and teams may be more comfortable playing it safe with College players with longer track records.

Watson is a 5’11”, 170lb left handed hitter, committed to NC State. He just turned 18 less than a month ago. Watson isn’t tall, but he’s solidly built and could add additional weight to his frame. Small risk he could grow out of SS, but his arm would work at 3rd and should keep plenty of range for Second. At present he has average range and he has the good footwork to sometimes make hard plays look easy. He has a plus arm, but he also has a tendency to drop his arm slot and rush throws, sometimes creating unexpected adventures for his First Baseman. His plus speed shows up in his defense, though as he adds weight, he may end up more of an average runner when he fully matures. He’s aggressive on the basepaths (sometimes maybe too aggressive), which may need some refinement as he matures. I’ve seen a few comps for him to our own Jean Segura, in terms of build and defensive ceiling.

I’m a fan of Watson’s swing. There’s a small leg kick partly for timing, partly for power. It’s a short, very fast swing with a whole lot of pull tendencies. He covers the inside of the plate masterfully on fastballs. Like most prep hitters he’s going to need some work on breaking balls and like all prep hitters there is not insubstantial risk here. There is definitely potential for, at least, average power, as his swing is geared toward loft and has THAT sound when he squares a ball up. He does a great job of leading with his hips and stretching the rubber band so when his shoulders come through in his swing, there is a lot of tension to pull the bat through the zone. If Watson has the pitch recognition (always a bit of a gamble with prep bats), the tools are here for a pretty special hitter. I don’t even think there are many tweaks needed (he can get a little busy with his hands early in his swing, but that’s not a terribly major adjustment to make).

Getting Khalil at 13 would be a bit of a steal. He’s certainly not a sure thing, but there’s All Star potential and some positional flexibility. The bat could work at 2nd or 3rd and he has the tools to be at least average at both positions.