With the 237th pick of the First-Year Player Draft, the San Diego Padres selected pitcher Mitch Watrous of the University of Utah. Watrous recently completed his junior year at Utah, compiling a 3-7 record with a 3.91 ERA in 15 starts for the Utes.
According to Utah coach Bill Kinneberg, the 6’0”, 200 lb. right-hander is known for his work ethic and the strength of his arm.
“He’s strong. He’s got a great arm. Arm strength is one of the, if not the No. 1 asset that professional scouts are looking for. And he knows how to pitch now. He’s got three quality pitches.”
Watrous was not drafted out of high school, when his primary asset was a mid-80s fastball. His own description of his abilities was that he had mound savvy, that he was just an average high school pitcher. He walked on as a freshman at Utah.
Over three years, he developed three quality pitches, including his best pitch, a sinking fastball, which is clocked in the mid-90s. He also features a solid change-up and a slider. Utah pitching coach Mike Crawford saw something special in Waltrous: his competitiveness.
Dave Lottsfeldt, the San Diego scout who recommended Watrous, agrees with Crawford: “He’s the guy that has an extra plus tool with the ‘grit’ factor. He competes extremely well and is a leader.”
Watrous used that competitive nature to improve each year, earning Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 in both his sophomore and junior seasons. His sophomore year, he was 4-4 with a 2.81 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 93 innings. Watrous improved his strikeout rate each year in college, racking up 76 Ks in 96.2 innings as a junior, good for eighth in the conference. Over his three seasons, he compiled a 3.39 ERA. The Pac-12 is one of the most competitive conferences in college baseball.
Watrous was the third pitcher taken by the Padres in the draft, following Zech Lemond and Ryan Butler. All three are college right-handers with big fastballs. The Padres have selected six college players in the first eight rounds of the draft. Perhaps this focus on college players indicates that they are looking for more immediate help for the team, rather than taking high school players with potentially higher ceilings, who will require a longer wait until they can help at the big league level.