Nationals name De Jon Watson Director of Player Development

The Washington Nationals named De Jon Watson their Director of Player Development on Tuesday. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

Watson spent the last five seasons (2017-21) as a special assistant to Mike Rizzo. He returns to the player development role where he will oversee Washington’s Minor League system. Watson brings extensive player development experience, having led the Los Angeles Dodgers player development system from 2007-14, serving as their vice president of player development for three years (2012-14) and their assistant general manager for player development for five seasons (2007-11).

“I am thrilled to move De Jon into this role as the Director of Player Development,” said Rizzo. “He has been an integral part of our success the last five seasons and has a documented track record of success in player development. He has a thorough understanding of our Minor League system and has the knowledge and experience to know what it takes to help players reach the Major Leagues.”

During his time overseeing Los Angeles’ player development, Watson and his staff conducted an annual Winter Prospect Development program that included instruction both on and off the field. That program helped more than 50 players reach the Major Leagues, including Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Kenley Jansen, Joc Pederson, Nathan Eovaldi, Corey Seager, Ross Stripling, Miguel Rojas, Dee Strange-Gordon, Julio Urías, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke, A.J. Ellis, Yimi Garcia, Victor Gonzalez and many others.

Under Watson’s leadership in 2010, Topps named the Dodgers its Organization of the Year. The prestigious award highlights the Major League team that has shown outstanding performance, depth and talent throughout its Major and Minor League teams.

The 2022 season will mark Watson’s 37th in professional baseball. Prior to joining the Nationals, he spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as Arizona’s senior vice president of baseball operations. Watson guided the franchise’s professional, amateur and international scouting as well as all player development functions. In 2015, Watson and his staff drafted and signed the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, Dansby Swanson. He was also responsible for increasing the franchise’s focus in the international market, reaching deals with right-handed pitcher Yoan López and outfielder Yasmany Tomás.

Prior to joining the Dodgers, Watson served as director of professional scouting for Cleveland (2004-06) and was a pro scout (2001-03) and the director of scouting (1998-2000) in Cincinnati. Watson began working in Major League Baseball in 1991 with the Florida Marlins and served as an area scout when the club won its first World Championship in 1997. A graduate of Santa Monica (CA) High School, Watson attended West Los Angeles Community College and was a third-round draft choice of the Kansas City Royals in 1985. He played five Minor League seasons before moving into a scouting role.