Juaron Watts-Brown could be an interesting second-round target for the Detroit Tigers
We are now less than a month away from the 2023 MLB Draft. The Detroit Tigers are likely in the process of finalizing their draft board. We've talked a lot about prospects the Tigers could take in the first round, but today we're going to discuss someone they could take in the second round, or maybe even a bit later.
Oklahoma State RHP Juaron Watts-Brown will be the topic of discussion today. He's someone who's numbers don't exactly jump off the page, but his stuff is very projectable at the professional level. Let's start with some background.
Watts-Brown went to Hanford High School in Hanford, California. He was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing football and basketball in addition to baseball.
He started his college career at Long Beach State, where he was a Freshman All-American as well as an All-Big West honorable mention. He had a 3.68 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 73.1 innings pitched.
He transferred to Oklahoma State in the offseason, where he had a 5.03 ERA in 15 starts in 2023. That doesn't look great, but then you see his 124 strikeouts in 82.1 IP and you start to not feel as bad.
Watts-Brown's ability to miss bats is by far his biggest strength. He has a 13.6 K/9 the last two years. His plus slider is what really does it for him, which is something that Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter would love.
MLB Pipeline has him ranked as their 63rd best prospect in 2023 MLB Draft. Here's part of their scouting report on him:
"Watts-Brown's best weapon is a plus 83-86 slider that he commands better than his other offerings, showing the ability to get swings and misses in and out of the strike zone. His fastball parks at 90-93 mph and tops out at 96 with decent running action, but it's fairly ordinary in terms of velocity and life and gets hit harder than any of his pitches. He also employs a solid low-80s curveball with bigger break than his slider and an average mid-80s changeup with some fade and tumble. "- MLB Pipeline
That fact that he has a good curveball to along with his slider is notable. It means he's not just a two-pitch pitcher, which is always a concern with young arms. The changeup is a work-in-progress, but we should be much more concerned about the fastball.
The fastball is very hittable right now. The velocity is one thing, but the fact that he has trouble commanding it is what really brings it down. Scouts believe he'll add velocity once he reaches pro ball anyway.
The other big issue for him is a symptom of his poor command, and that's the walks. He walked 5.2 batters per nine innings in 2023, which is not what you want to see. He didn't give up a lot of hits, it was always the walks that burned him.
If there was one player I'd compare him to, it's current Tigers' pitcher Reese Olson. A guy who knows how to miss bats with plus secondary pitches, but doesn't quite have the command to fully live up to his potential.
Fit with Detroit Tigers
I actually believe this would be a pretty good fit with the Tigers. Watts-Brown seems like just the kind of project Chris Fetter and Gabe Ribas would love to take on. Again, the numbers aren't spectacular, but the swing-and-miss stuff suggests there is something to work with here.
If the Tigers look to go with a pitcher in the middle rounds, Watts-Brown would be an interesting selection.