1. Off the top, his 2nd base defense should be average, if not better than average.
2. This one is what pushes him down for me. I'm too lazy to go to firstinning right now, but I'm almost certain that it's been two straight summers where he's struggled early on, only to heat up in the summer.
3. Sure. Don't get me wrong, I think he can be a big leaguer. I just doubt his potential to be a starter, hence why I have Whitenack ahead, but Watkins should be able to fill a utility role because
4. His SS defense is ... livable/passable, and he can play the OF. Wouldn't want him at short long term (if Castro got hurt and he had to play, would rather shift Barney over to short).
Thanks. If his defense is solid/average, then he's interesting. There aren't many utility infielders who don't play SS. So for a guy to carve a long-term career as a utility 2B/SS, being decent at SS helps. If you're fighting for the last roster spot, the true SS who's also proficient at 2B will obviously be defensively preferable to the decent 2B who's going to be a problem if he needs to start more than 3-4 games a year at SS. But certain for us, Barney does have that capability anyway. The CF probably helps a little bit. And could help a lot if he ended up hitting so well that you didn't mind him playing, or maybe even liked it.
I guess we'll see with the offense. I'd written him off prior to last year, and the early season I didn't even pay attention. But he was only 22, and has now gone 1>5>9 for HR's, he added an extra 5 doubles, his slugging was no longer Barney-esque. I tink an .800+ OPS at age 22 in AA is pretty interesting for a decent-fielding middle infielder. And his second half was over .850, I think. Probably got hot, hit a few HR, and it won't be sustainable. But if it's real improvement and maturation, but physically (for the power), and in terms of actual hitting, if he's got enough improvement left so that he could even remotely approach those numbers in the majors, you'd have a useful starter. .383 OBP, those don't grow on trees.
The curious thing was that all of his number got better. BB-rate jumped a bunch, and HR's/slugging, but very weirdly his K-rate actually dropped a little. Usually more HR means swinging harder, and K's go up. Or more walks mean working count deeper, getting into more 2-K counts, and K's go up. His SB volume also went up, which I don't normally see versus better defensive catchers. And his errors at 2B went down. So really a nice year for him, progress in every aspect of his game, and no cost to making the changes. (Contrast to Szczur: his walk rate went way up, but that brought his K's ways up, and his HR's/slugging way down.)
Watkins is 23 now, so not that young. But, I don't think there is a super long baseball season or a high level of competition in rural Kansas. Not sure how many quality pitchers he faced, or how many games he actually played. As the HS QB, I'm sure his baseball season didn't run very long. So maybe a kid like that had more to learn and isn't as far along developmentally as the typical 23-year-old all-baseball top-prospect kid from California or Florida. Maybe the recent improvement is real, and maybe he's still got some more left?
He's LH, which might also help him make a big-league roster in a bench role initially, then perhaps later get some starts versus RHP, and perhaps play his way into some partial-platoon usage. He had pretty strong splits, .846 to .667 or something like that.