Marlins ink 2021 first-round pick Watson

Prep shortstop selected No. 16 overall in July's MLB Draft

August 1st, 2021

MIAMI -- "It always seems impossible until it's done."

That's the message Marlins CEO and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter passed on to , the organization's top pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, on Sunday. Miami announced the signing of Watson, the 16th overall selection, prior to their 3-1 series-finale loss to the Yankees at loanDepot park.

The prep star from Wake Forest, N.C., took the Nelson Mandela quote to heart -- and he expects to use it for guidance as he begins his professional baseball journey.

"I'm very blessed for this opportunity," Watson said. "I want to thank the Miami fans and everything that's been given to me and all of that. Blood, sweat and tears is all hard work paying off. I'm just glad to be here."

Early consensus called the 18-year-old Watson the steal of the Draft, after he hit .583 with 13 extra-base hits in 53 at-bats during his senior season. A prolific athlete who also played five positions as a standout on the school’s football team, he checks in with above-average marks across the board. He has elite bat speed and raw power from the left side of the plate, while displaying solid plate discipline. Listed at 5-foot-9 and 178 pounds, Watson plays bigger than that.

The last time Blake Newsome -- who scouts North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia -- saw Watson play, the shortstop had a three-homer game. Newsome didn't hesitate calling him "one of the better high school bats I've scouted."

Director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik thought Watson's calming confidence stood out most. The dedication to his craft stems from his father, Charles, who would throw in the backyard with Kahlil after driving his truck. Though Watson projects as more of a top-of-the-order player, he could bat fifth in a lineup. Despite his young age, Watson is not a raw talent.

"He plays with a lot of energy, he plays with a lot of passion and a lot of aggressiveness, so you can probably sense that when you talk to him," Svihlik said. "And to me, I really like that in a player -- a calm confidence, a real confidence -- because this is a tough game and you need that."

Watson displayed that during his introductory media scrum. Asked what he expected to be the biggest challenge transitioning to pro ball, he proclaimed, "I don't think I have any challenges." Asked how the organization's excitement made him feel, Watson acknowledged the ability to move fast through the system and be on the field he stood on "by two or three years."

His journey will begin either Thursday or Friday in Jupiter, Fla., after he gets things situated with his family, who were in attendance on Sunday. Watson already felt at home in Miami, referencing the area code by dropping a "305, baby."

With the Watson announcement, Miami was able to sign 20 of its 21 picks -- all but University of Texas third baseman Ivan Melendez. Svihlik believed there was a "wonderful balance" of super high upside and floor.

According to MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis, Watson signed for $4,540,790 -- the most the Marlins could offer without exceeding their bonus pool by more than 5 percent and lose future Draft picks. Sunday marked the deadline to sign 2021 MLB Draft picks. Svihlik said there was never a doubt the organization would be able to sign him.

"Any time you get to the finish line, it's really, really exciting," Svihlik said. "The first thing you do is pick the players, but it's a whole other challenge to get them all signed. Once you get to this day, it's a relief. It's exciting for the organization, for the family."