With an abundance of young talent already thriving in the big leagues, it’s difficult to imagine that the Braves still have more on the way. Rarely does a club enjoy the luxury of possessing multiple waves of elite prospects. For Atlanta, however, this was the plan all along. With this first wave paying early dividends, let’s look at who might be next.
One prospect that continues to turn heads is an outfielder and local Atlanta product, Drew Waters. Although drafted out of Etowah High in Woodstock, GA only two years ago, the switch-hitting bat is progressing quickly through the minors.
After being selected in the 2nd round (41st overall) of the 2017 draft, Waters spent the year split between the GCL Braves and rookie-level Danville. He appeared in 50 games slashing a combined .278 to go with four homers and 24 RBIs while getting on base at a .362 clip.
It was a promising start but only a glimpse of what was to come in 2018. One of the best players on an incredibly talented Rome Braves roster, Waters showed why scouts evaluate all five of his tools as plus or better. Batting .303 while slugging nine homers and driving in 36 in 84 games, the former Etowah Eagle would also go on to swipe 20 bags and showcase excellent defense. As a reward for his stellar work in Rome, he was called up to High A Florida for the season’s last 30 games.
The Braves front office made a somewhat surprising move at the end of Spring Training when they assigned the toolsy outfielder to AA Mississippi. This instantly made the 20-year-old one of the youngest players in all of Double-A baseball. It hasn’t mattered. Thrust into the ultra-competitive Southern League, Waters has proven the Braves brass right so far.
Through 38 games, he leads the league in hits, doubles, and total bases while ranking among the top 3 in batting average, runs, OPS, and slugging percentage. Not too bad for someone who was in high school just 24 months ago.
At 6’2” 185 pounds, scouts agree that there is plenty of raw power that will come as he continues to fill out. Waters has also made strides mechanically in his swing from both sides of the plate with excellent results. Evaluators have also praised his makeup and hard-nosed, old school approach to baseball. Tie all of that in with the exceptional speed, glove, and arm tools, and it is no wonder why many close to the Braves organization envision him playing in Atlanta for many years.
The timetable for when Waters could realistically put on his hometown uniform will remain up in the air. There is nowhere to put him on the major league roster as things currently stand, but if he keeps up this current pace, who knows what could happen as the season progresses. A more realistic expectation is that he could be starting in right field to open 2020, taking the torch from fellow Woodstock native Nick Markakis.