Unorthodox mechanics make Yankees’ Danny Watson a unique prospect

Unorthodox mechanics make Yankees' pitching prospect Danny Watson a unique talent.
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Michael Bennington
Friday December 22, 2023

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There are few pitchers currently in the minor leagues as distinctive as Yankees prospect Danny Watson. Standing tall at 6-foot-7, this right-handed reliever presents a unique sight on the mound, practically turning his back to the hitter as he toes the rubber. Danny Watson’s delivery is characterized by a distinctive slinging motion, with the 23-year-old releasing the baseball from a remarkably low slot.

Throughout the season, Danny Watson’s unconventional mechanics and the ongoing refinement of his pitching arsenal posed challenges for opposing hitters. The 15th-round selection from VCU showcased a remarkable 1.58 ERA over 62 2/3 innings pitched across High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset. In 45 appearances at these levels, Danny Watson maintained an impressive 0.88 WHIP and an 11.78 strikeout-per-nine ratio, limiting hitters to a meager .138 batting average.

Danny Watson’s transformation to MiLB’s unique ace

In the span of a year, the Nassau, New York native underwent a remarkable transformation. From a slender arm with a 4.01 ERA and untapped potential in Class-A Tampa, Danny Watson evolved into a high-leverage reliever poised to contribute to the Yankees as early as the upcoming season. He now holds the No. 29 prospect position in the organization according to MLB Pipeline.

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Danny Watson appreciates his uniqueness for giving him an advantage. He mentioned to NJ Advanced Media that hitters faced discomfort when batting against him because his pitching style was unlike any they had encountered before. The Yankees pitching prospect pointed out the common expectation of pitchers throwing over the top and using their height for high-speed throws but highlighted that his entire body movement was entirely different from that of any other pitcher.

But having a distinctive style also has its drawbacks.

Given Danny Watson’s unique pitching motion and body type, he faced challenges in troubleshooting mechanical issues without a precise reference point. This aspect added complexity to addressing command issues throughout his inaugural full season in professional baseball. The matter became a focal point for both Watson and pitching coach Grayson Crawford throughout their time in Tampa, a focus that persisted even after their joint promotion to Somerset the following year.

Crawford mentioned that, in his opinion, the pitcher possesses some of the most impressive raw pitching abilities, particularly among relievers within the organization. He noted the continuous search to identify the most effective form of deception that contributed to Danny Watson’s success. Adjustments were made, experimenting with lowering his arm slot before gradually readjusting it. Currently, the pitcher adopts a more closed-off stance at the start of his delivery, aiming to create deception right from the beginning.

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Deception is the hallmark of his pitching style

Fully turning away from the hitter marked a significant breakthrough for Danny Watson. Although he had contemplated this approach earlier, it wasn’t until he observed Yankees reliever Greg Weissert‘s throwing technique during spring training that he decided to give it a try.

Danny Watson mentioned seeking advice from Greg about a specific technique, inquiring about what worked effectively and the rationale behind his approach. He discovered that Greg’s reasoning aligned precisely with his own thoughts on the matter. Greg offered some suggestions and critiques on how to approach it differently. Danny Watson implemented these suggestions the following day, found the adjustments beneficial, and continued with that technique thereafter.

Weissert can relate to Danny Watson’s path, being another late-round pick and a New York native who relies on deception and horizontal movement. While Weissert is still a work in progress, evident in his own command challenges with a 4.60 ERA in 29 appearances for the Yankees over the past two years, his effectiveness arises from his cross-body release. This unique technique enables him to produce over 21 inches of horizontal movement on his sweeping pitch, surpassing any other right-handed pitcher in the entirety of baseball in 2023.

Weissert’s readiness to assist a younger pitcher underscores the cooperative ethos within the Yankees‘ pitching department. Across all tiers, pitchers donning pinstripes act like sponges, absorbing knowledge from their peers while making sincere efforts to support others, including fellow arms vying for the same roster spots.

Unorthodox mechanics make Yankees' pitching prospect Danny Watson a unique talent.
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Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake noted the positive aspect of players sharing information and assisting each other. He emphasized that the best organizations, including theirs in terms of development, should facilitate a constructive feedback loop for players. According to Blake, this involves discussions about their work, information usage, and craft improvement. He highlighted the importance of players seeking advice from experienced pitchers like Gerrit Cole or Carlos Rodón, especially regarding specific aspects like practicing four-seam fastballs and identifying targets. Blake mentioned that such exchanges and discussions should ideally occur within the organization.

Should Danny Watson sustain his development, excelling in the art of deception, there is potential for him to make a significant contribution in a Yankees uniform in 2024. Building upon his breakout season, he faces a formidable challenge in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but he approaches it with eagerness, determined to forge his distinct journey to the major leagues. In doing so, he aspires to set an example for other unconventional arms that will inevitably emerge in the future.

Danny Watson expressed his appreciation for being part of an organization that values uniqueness, stating, “I’m in a good organization to embrace my individuality.” He conveyed his excitement about the Yankees’ impressive track record with relievers, expressing optimism about the prospect of following a similar path to success within the organization.

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