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Who is J.T. Watkins? Inside the role of the Red Sox staffer named in MLB’s report

J.T. Watkins, shown in 2015, is a former Red Sox prospect who shifted into a staff role after retiring in 2016.Brian Blanco for The Boston Globe

Advance scouting assistant J.T. Watkins did not have a uniform or much of a title with the Red Sox. But he was always fine with that.

The 30-year-old former minor league catcher was comfortable being behind the scenes assisting the coaching staff and players in a variety of ways.

Watkins helped prepare scouting reports, worked with the catchers, aided the hitting coaches, and during games was in charge of recommending whether umpire calls should be challenged.

It was that particular aspect of his role that led to a season-long suspension from Major League Baseball on Wednesday.

MLB’s report on the 2018 Red Sox blamed only Watkins for using in-game video to decode signs from opposing catchers “on at least some occasions.”


Watkins vehemently denied that, something a West Point graduate and former US Army lieutenant would not do lightly. But Watkins was suspended without pay for this season based on a small number of players telling MLB investigators they assumed he may have updated scouting reports based on in-game video.

Watkins can return to the Sox in 2021, but not as replay coordinator for at least one year.

The Sox selected Watkins in the 10th round of the 2012 draft. He played briefly that season then not again until 2015 as he served as a field artillery officer and graduated from Ranger School.

Watkins retired as a player after the 2016 season and joined the major league staff in 2017 under manager John Farrell.

Alex Cora retained Watkins when he became manager and often said he appreciated his cool demeanor during games. Watkins regularly stayed at Fenway Park for hours after games, getting a jump on his work for the next day before walking back to his apartment.

Watkins’s father, Danny, has been with the Red Sox as an amateur scout since 2004 and was a proponent of selecting a slender second baseman from Tennessee named Mookie Betts in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.


Betts and Watkins played together in Lowell in 2012.

Commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged in his report that Watkins was “placed in a difficult position” of knowing the signs from his role as replay coordinator but being prohibited from passing that information along to the players.

Watkins could not be reached for comment.

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.