Anthony Michael Watson
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 4", Weight 221 lb.
- School University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- High School Dallas-Center Grimes High School
- Debut June 8, 2011
Watson went 29-9 in high school and fanned 613 batters, the most by a high school pitcher in Iowa since Cal Eldred in the mid-1980s. He had a 0.10 ERA as a senior, a state record, and threw three no-hitters. He also played basketball and football in high school. He was picked by the Florida Marlins in the 23rd round of the 2003 amateur draft but opted for college.
Tony had shoulder surgery before he threw a pitch in college and was redshirted for 2004. In 2005, he had a 6-1, 2.82 record and was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball. The next year, he turned in a 10-2, 2.87 campaign. He was third in the Big 12 Conference in ERA, fourth in wins and 5th in opponent average (.236). He beat out Max Scherzer for a spot on the All-Conference team and was picked third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball. The Florida Marlins chose him in the 17th round of the 2006 amateur draft but he returned for third season of college ball.
In the 2006 Cape Cod League, Watson went 5-2 with a 2.44 ERA for the Harwich Mariners. Baseball America rated him as the league's #14 prospect, between Mitch Canham and Matt LaPorta. His junior season, he fell to 6-4, 4.09 and second-team All-Conference. He still rose in the draft class, to the 9th round of the 2007 amateur draft, when the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him. Mike Leuzinger was the scout.
The Iowa native spent the rest of 2007 with the State College Spikes (6-1, 2.52, 7 BB in 53 2/3 IP) and Hickory Crawdads (1-1, 3.86). He just missed the New York-Penn League's top 10 in ERA. Baseball America listed him as having the best changeup of a Pirates farmhand. In 2008, the tall lefty turned in a 8-12, 3.56 season for the Lynchburg Hillcats. He tied John Ely and Brandon Erbe for second in the Carolina League in losses but was third in low walk rate (2.14 per 9). He was second among Pirates minor leaguers with 104 strikeouts, trailing Jared Hughes.
Watson missed most of 2009 with injury. He struggled in five outings for the Altoona Curve (0-3, 8.22, an uncharacteristic 11 walks in 15 1/3 IP) but had a 2.13 ERA and .152 opponent average in 11 games in the Arizona Fall League with the Scottsdale Scorpions. Moving to relief with Altoona in 2010, Watson did very well (6-4, 2 Sv, 2.67, 0.95 WHIP) and Pittsburgh added him to their 40-man roster in November. He made his debut with the Pirates midway through the 2011 season. He made his debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 8th, striking out both men he faced, Chris Young and Juan Miranda, in the 8th inning with a pair of runners on base and the D-Backs having just tied the score at 1. He stayed with the Bucs for the rest of the season, pitching 42 times with a record of 2-2, 3.95. He quickly established himself as a reliable lefty out of the bullpen, being mainly used as a late-inning LOOGY against the opposition's toughest left-handed batters. In 2012, he had another solid season, pitching 68 times and logging 53 1/3 innings, while compiling a 5-2 mark with a 3.38 ERA and striking out 53 opponents.
Tony picked up his first career save on April 25, 2013, pitching the last two innings of a 6-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. On June 30th, Watson picked up a win in matching the longest outing of his career - three innings - when the Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in 14 innings to extend a winning streak to 9 games and reach the half-way mark of the season with the best record in baseball. Watson came in in the top of the 12th as the Bucs' 7th pitcher of the game, after starter Charlie Morton had been knocked out after only two innings by a lengthy rain delay. Knowing he had to go as long as possible, even though his usual outings were of an inning of less, he pitched three scoreless innings, before being lifted for pinch-hitter Russell Martin who delivered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 14th. By then, the scheduled starter for the team's next game, Jeff Locke, was warming up in the bullpen, but he did not need to be used. He has been mainly used as a middle reliever and as a result, in 2015, he recorded 41 holds, to tie the single-season record set by Joel Peralta two years earlier.
On June 5, 2021, now pitching for the Los Angeles Angels, Watson passed Arthur Rhodes to claim first place on the all-time career list for holds, with 232. But that should be taken with a grain of salt, since Major League Baseball only started counting holds starting in 1999, by which time Rhodes already had almost a decade of work under his belt; Rhodes's total according to Baseball-Reference is 254.
- NL All-Star (2014)
- Phil Rogers: "Watson makes Bucs' bullpen a force: Lefty reliever has been invaluable in setup role", mlb.com, February 26, 2016.