"Just an average high school pitcher. Nothing special."
That Watrous was selected in the eighth round of the MLB draft by the San Diego Padres on Friday is largely because Utah pitching coach Mike Crawford didn't agree with that assessment. Watrous was special, he thought.
"He saw something that a lot of guys didn't see," Watrous said. "Crawford's a real competitive guy, and what he saw, I think, was my competitiveness."
The right-hander transformed himself after walking on at the U. Watrous developed command of three pitches, and his bread-and-butter sinking fastball now clocks in the mid-90s. He started the final seven weeks of his true freshman year. As a sophomore he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12.
He went 3-7 as a junior in 2014, but that's largely a reflection of Utah's bottom-of-the-Pac offense. Watrous still posted a 3.91 ERA in one of the nation's toughest leagues, striking out 76 batters in 96 2/3 innings and walking 26.
Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg says that while Watrous' most valuable attribute is his work ethic, he doesn't lack for physical tools.
"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."
Every Major League Baseball contacted Watrous before the draft, with the Milwaukee Brewers showing more interest than the others.
Because he hasn't signed with an agent, he had the option of returning to the Utes if he wasn't happy with his draft position, but a release from the U. said he would forgo his senior year.
"You only get one chance, so I don't want to risk turning it down and not getting that chance to play," he says. "I never thought I would get a chance."
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Utah senior Nick Green was taken in the 10th round by the Kansas City royals. Green, a 6-foot-3 southpaw who emerged as the Utes' closer, also walked on at the U. before earning a scholarship.
"This is unbelievable," Green said in a statement. "I'm honestly speechless. I never thought I would have gotten the opportunity to continue playing baseball. I thought playing in college was going to be a fun way to pass four years, and now I'm here."
Kinneberg also hopes outgoing seniors Tanner Banks (LHP) and T.J. Bennett (1B) will be picked up.
And then there are the guys Kinneberg doesn't want to see sign with MLB teams, at least not yet: his incoming freshmen.
"I think every college coach will have the Internet up and be watching for their guys," he said. "It's a tenuous time for us."
Utah fans should pay particular attention to three Arizona preps who have signed to play at the U.: pitcher Spencer Moran (ranked as the No. 152 prospect in the nation by Baseball America), pitcher Trenton Stoltz and center fielder/pitcher Andre Jackson.
Former Ute and current Los Angeles Angel C.J. Cron may also be tuning in for his brother, Kevin. The TCU first baseman was taken by the Mariners in the third round of the 2011 draft but opted to go to Fort Worth instead.
In case you missed it, The Tribune's Steve Luhm wrote about the dearth of Utah-grown talent expected to be taken in this year's draft.