Last season’s top Phillies draft choice, righty pitcher Shane Watson is set to kick off the new season as a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. Taken 40th overall, the six-foot-four 200-pounder signed for nearly $1.3 million and made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, posting a 1.29 ERA over five outings late last summer.
After spending time in the fall instructional league, the 19-year-old will be among a young group of hurlers hoping to take the BlueClaws back to the top of the South Atlantic League in 2013.
At Tuesday’s open practice in Lakewood, I spoke with Shane, about his draft experience, his offerings on the mound, his transition into the professional ranks and plenty more. Read ahead for that full interview.
– Shane, last year you were selected in the first round, 40th overall…I wanted to talk with you and just learn what your draft experience was like. How did you track it and how did you celebrate once you learned you were picked by the Phillies?
It was a pretty incredible feeling. I couldn’t really describe how it felt, but I was hoping I would go fairly early on draft day and it kind of just happened and I can’t really describe how it felt to hear my name on TV, but it was fun. It was a once in a lifetime chance.
– So, is that something you were watching live? You know, who were you watching with when it happened?
I was at my grandma’s house watching live. Actually, I invited about six friends over. It ended up being, like, a 45, 50 people affair, way too many people, but when my name was called, everyone went crazy. Air horns and stuff. It was fun!
– That sounds pretty big. Now, you spent some time as a pro last year pitching in five games, seven innings pitched, then spending time at instructs. What did you take out of your brief time as a pro last year that you’re going to bring into this year?
It was a humbling experience. I thought I was good and big in high school, but once you come out here, you’re just another player, so you’ve got to just earn your keep and work hard pretty much.
– Did you feel like you took stuff out of that reality check that’s gonna be beneficial for you going forward?
Yeah, definitely. It’s always a good thing being humbled and just coming back to Earth and work hard.
– Now you mentioned having an upgrade, as far as competition goes and guys you faced. What was the transition like for you? Was it pretty much what you expected, to be a little more tough on you?
Yeah, definitely. I was told all throughout high school that the next level was going to be harder, especially pro ball, if I was gonna go there.
– A lot of folks haven’t seen you, so I wanted to ask what’s your full pitch repertoire and what do you consider your out pitch?
Fastball, change up, curve ball, cutter, and the curve ball’s pretty much a slider pretty much. I think my out pitch is my curve ball. The change up’s right there too, though. I just throw whatever I feel at the time.
– That sounds good. What’s your velocity like with the fastball and what is the variance with the off-speed pitches?
The highest I’ve been in spring training, I heard 95, which I touched once. And then my change up is about 82. Curve ball I think around 78, 80. Cutter probably about 85. That’s what I’ve been told, so it could vary.
– That’s a solid menu. Now, you’re here, set to play with the BlueClaws and your manager here is Mickey Morandini. Your pitching coach is Aaron Fultz. What’s it like being coached and guided by two guys that have played at the top level of this organization?
It’s amazing. It’s really special to have somebody that’s been there and done it, teaching you how to get there and do it. And Fultzy’s been- I can’t speak for anybody else, but all the pitchers say Fultzy’s like one of my best friends. He’s really cool. He’s down to Earth. He likes to have fun. When it’s time to get serious, he gets serious. But, it’s pretty special having that type of pitching coach there with us.
– And I know you’re a California guy, and I wanted to get your thoughts on who you looked at as some of your favorite players growing up?
I didn’t get to see him play too much, ’cause I was way too young, but I saw quite a few videos on him…Nolan Ryan. I like to mirror my approach as how he did.
– Absolutely. He was one of the top guys of his era. Was there anybody that you were a fan of that you actually got to see in person?
Well, my brother. But, he’s not in the big leagues, so…
– Well, talk about your brother. What’s his name and how did he inspire you to climb the ladder and get better?
Scott Watson. Scotty Watson, I call him. He just taught me everything I know, pretty much. He’s seven years older than me, so I was 3, 4 years old. As soon as I was able to throw a ball, he was there to play a catch with me. He played for a team in Canada, the Calgary Vipers.
– So, as you become a pro and you’re now this highly regarded prospect that gets selected 40th overall, what is Scotty’s level of pride in you?
On draft day, he was crying. When I first got drafted and my name was called, he came over to me and wanted to shake my hand and give me a hug and he was crying. I had never seen him cry like that before, especially for me. I thought, “Wow! That’s crazy.” My dad was crying too and it made me realize that, “Dang, this is really happening.”
– Last June you were drafted out of Lakewood High School (in California) and now you’ll be pitching for the Lakewood BlueClaws. There’s another player that was drafted as a first rounder out of Lakewood High School that ended up playing in Lakewood and actually won a South Atlantic League title with Lakewood, Travis d’Arnaud. I talked with him about you last June, when you were drafted, and he played with your brother, but knew of you and knew that you were good. How highly regarded is Travis in Lakewood High School circles?
He’s pretty big. Him and his brother (Chase), in our Long Beach area and Lakewood area, are all highly regarded athletes. They’re big and strong and fast. I was at Lakewood (High School) this off-season and got to have a catch with him and got to talk to him. Got to chat and wish each other luck. I like him.
– So, he’s a guy that everyone there will still keep tabs on, much like, hopefully, they’ll follow you now?