A bulked up Drew Waters sees huge rise in prospect rankings

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A couple of weeks back, we wrote about how Drew Waters was named the most underrated prospect by 15% of baseball executives in a survey, good for the majority of voters. It seems as if MLB.com has caught on to that memo. Waters was elevated 60 spots from #86 in their pre-2019 Top 100 Prospect List, making him one of the most prominent young risers in the game.

Other Braves prospects featured in their top 100 included Cristian Pache (#13), Ian Anderson (#37), Kyle Wright (#52), and Shea Langeliers (#70). Pache saw a bump as well, with Anderson sitting around the same neighborhood, and Wright losing some momentum after an up and down 2019. Langeliers makes his debut on the list after being the Braves’ first-round selection last summer.

Waters had a huge 2019. He was named the MVP of the Southern League, becoming the first Braves farmhand to do so since Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez won the award back to back in 1991 and 1992. Former winners of the award also include Joey Votto, Evan Longoria, Paul Goldschmidt, and Marcus Semien. Talk about some good company.

Waters is a local kid out of Etowah High School who is knocking on the big leagues, as he reached AAA late last season. He features an elite switch-hitting contact bat to go along with his speed, arm, and defense, and one would assume that more power should come with time, given his frame. Waters has been an extra-base hit machine his last two years of pro ball with 113 of them to go with 29 steals. But to take the next step, he will have to produce more power, turning some of these extra-base hits and line drives into home runs.

The good news is that he has continued to put in the work necessary, gaining around 15 pounds this past season. Waters talked to the media at the team’s ChopFest about how that helped him make strides as a player throughout the minor leagues:

Not only is he trying put on weight but he is trying to put on healthy weight as well:

Giving up Chick-Fil-A is the ultimate sacrifice. Waters clearly has the right mindset going forward.

In all seriousness, it is easy to forget sometimes that many of these prospects are kids plucked out of high school. But there is no denying the body transformation of Waters, as well as Cristian Pache, is preparing them for the big leagues and moving them up prospect lists. Currently listed at 6’2″ and 183 pounds, Waters can continue to add a bit of bulk while keeping his great speed tool intact, and grow into a hitter that can likely hit for 15-20 homers a season in the big leagues.

Of course, weight is not the only concern with Waters. He also struck out at a high rate in 2019 due to an aggressive approach at the plate. Regardless, his performance en route to the league’s batting title was impressive nonetheless for a 20-year old that is positioned to debut as early as this season, just three years after being drafted.

Waters held his own in AAA Gwinnett while being one of the youngest players at the level, but he did not exactly set the world on fire either. The Braves have shown they have no problem challenging their prospects regardless of age, and Waters had little left to prove at the AA level. He will likely spend close to the entirety of the season in Gwinnett. A professional debut is not out of the question in 2020, but earning playing time in a deep Atlanta outfield that just added Marcell Ozuna could be tough. The Braves also have two former All-Star outfielders – Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall – coming off their bench.

But Waters’ time will come. Expectations are high and for good reason. The Braves only offered Ozuna a one-year deal because Pache and Waters are knocking on the door, and there is a strong chance that both are regulars in 2021. At least, that is the plan for now.

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