Braves: Could Drew Waters win Rookie of the Year for the Royals?

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One of the more surprising moves by the Braves this past season was the decision to trade top prospect Drew Waters to the Royals for the 35th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. We won’t know for years how JR Ritchie — the player the Braves selected with the 35th pick — pans out, but we can monitor Waters’ development as early as next year, as he could become an everyday starter for the Royals.

Waters received the call to Kansas City late last season and had some decent success, recording a .327 OBP and five homers — good for a very respectable .803 OPS and 124 OPS+. The sample size was small — only 32 games — but if Waters can replicate something similar to that at the plate in 2023, he’ll be in the conversation for the AL Rookie of the Year. Here is what MLB.com recently said about his chances:

Waters is sitting on exactly 45 days of service time, meaning he hasn’t exceeded the minimum needed to lose rookie status, so on the list he goes. The 23-year-old switch-hitter looked like he was languishing at Triple-A with the Braves but hit another gear after getting traded in early July, producing a .295/.399/.541 line in 31 games with Omaha. He was an above-average hitter (125 wRC+) over 109 plate appearances in the Majors, too, also showing good speed and a strong arm. Assuming KC keeps a spot on the grass open for him, Waters has the tools to build a strong second MLB season.

Following his 2019 campaign in AA, which resulted in the Southern League MVP award, Waters looked like he was on his way to becoming a mainstay in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure what happened — if it was COVID forcing him to miss all of 2020 or just the improved competition — but Waters fell out of favor with the organization quickly, resulting in the trade.

Being an Atlanta native, Waters will always have a fan in me. I’ll be monitoring his 2023 campaign closely, and hopefully, it results in an AL Rookie of the Year award.

Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

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