Round 9: Tony Watson
One of the best relief pitchers in Pirate history was taken in the ninth round of the 2007 draft. The 278th overall pick, Tony Watson became known for his excellent command throughout his minor league career as a prospect. Though he would be used in a starter and swingman capacity throughout the minors, he’d eventually make the complete transition to the bullpen once he reached the major leagues.
Throughout his first seven years in the major leagues, Watson established himself as one of the best left-handed relievers in the league. His tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates saw him rack up a total of 433 innings, yielding a 2.68 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP. He only walked 6.9% of batters faced while having a solid 0.85 HR/9 rate and 21.7% strikeout rate.
Watson is arguably the best set-up man in baseball history. He leads all MLB pitchers in holds at 246. He broke this record on June 5th, 2021, with the LA Angels. His 41 holds in 2015 are tied with Joel Peralta in 2013 for the most in a single season. One last notable milestone was his 2014 all-star season, along with Andrew McCutchen and partner-in-crime Mark Melancon.
After leaving the Pittsburgh Pirates, Watson pitched exclusively on the West Coast with the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Angels. He was solid though with him pitching to the tune of a 3.41 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP through his last 195.1 innings of work. Watson recently announced his retirement earlier this year, which ended a streak of 9 straight seasons where he appeared in 60+ games and had an ERA+ of 100 or greater (excluding the 2020 campaign, though he still had an ERA+ well above 100 at 174). He also ends his career with the most holds in MLB history and a sub-3.00 ERA/136 ERA+.