June 25, 2024

Khalil Watson, currently ranked as our No. 18 prospect, dominated the voting on Wednesday, securing 32% of the votes and outperforming the competition by nearly 40 votes.

Similar to standout prospects Kyle Manzardo and Joey Cantillo, Watson came to us through a trade. Originally selected by the Miami Marlins as the 16th overall pick in the MLB draft from Wake Forest High School in North Carolina, he became part of the Cleveland organization in the Josh Bell trade last season.

During his draft year, Watson immediately showcased his talent, boasting an impressive .394/.524/.606 slash line across nine games and 42 plate appearances, resulting in a stellar 199 wRC+.

In 2022, he made his debut at full-season Single-A at just 19 years old, where he delivered an unexpectedly average performance, with a slash line of .231/.296/.395 over 83 games and a 96 wRC+. His frustrations may have peaked when he received a suspension after an ejection from a game for mimicking pointing a bat at the first-base umpire like a gun following a check-swing called third strike.

In 2023, Watson earned a promotion to High-A, where he posted a slash line of .206/.337/.362 across 58 games before being traded. With Cleveland, he demonstrated improved contact and power, recording a .233/.306/.442 slash line.

Concerns about strikeouts have followed him, particularly evident when he hit a career-high 35.5% in 2022. However, he managed to reduce this to 24.5% during his time with Cleveland last year. If he can continue to refine his plate discipline, balancing his occasional elite walk rates (such as the 14.4% he achieved with Miami in 2023), he could still carve out a promising future in Cleveland, especially considering he won’t even turn 21 for another two months.

Expect Watson to kick off the 2024 season at Double-A. Since joining Cleveland, he’s been utilized at both second base and shortstop, suggesting a focus on the middle infield positions. However, with numerous talented prospects ahead of him in the hierarchy, his path won’t be easy. Yet, being a former 16th overall pick speaks to his potential. Perhaps 2024 will mark his breakthrough season.

Khalil Watson, An Underrated Acquisition - Covering the Corner

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