Braves Prospect Profile: Drew Waters
The Atlanta Braves boast perhaps the most pitching-rich farm system in the game, but some young position players are starting to make the rest of baseball take notice.
Among those men is Rome Braves outfielder Drew Waters. The local product from Etowah High School in nearby Woodstock, Georgia, was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft and received high praise from Braves officials across the board.
Waters, 19, embarks on his first full season of professional baseball and it begins in the South Atlantic League. The switch-hitter slashed .278/.362/.429 with 14 doubles, four home runs, 24 RBI and six stolen bases in 50 games at two Rookie-level stops last season. The tools are tantalizing, but the intangibles may help Waters go a long way as well.
I had a chance to catch up with Waters as Rome opened up the 2018 season. In just a few short minutes, it was easy to see why Atlanta is so high on this young outfielder. And you might be pleasantly surprised to discover what former Braves player has already had a big impact on Waters’ fledgling career.
Grant McAuley: It’s your first full season of pro-ball, but of course you got your feet wet last summer. Making the jump from high school, what were your impressions of your first year and how much have you been looking forward to getting back out on the field?
Drew Waters: It was definitely a learning experience for me. I had to learn a lot of things, especially at the plate. I’m facing a lot better competition. Guys not only throw the fastball at 95, but they also locate and spot up two other really good pitches, so I had to learn how to hit all three pitches. There’s a couple of things in my swing that I changed this offseason that I think will give me a lot of success for this season.
GM: Yeah, baseball is a constant game of adjustments. That’s something you well know, and I guess you’ll find out more about as you climb in the system. It’s a pretty good group of guys that you’ll have here in Rome this year. I know this isn’t necessarily your backyard, but its not too terribly far away from Woodstock. It has to be kind of nice to have a full season where you can play in the same region as your family…
DW: Yeah, I am really looking forward to it. I think a lot of success comes with having a good foundation and to me my family is my foundation. With them being able to come to a lot of the games and to be there to support me throughout the season, I think I’ll be able to have a great season.
GM: Walk me through last year, I mean it’s not even been a full year since you were drafted by Atlanta. This is a team you had the experience of growing up watching and being a fan of. How surreal was that to have the Braves be the team that chose you?
DW: I’ll definitely say it was a quick year. I went from winning the state championship, to graduation, to all of a sudden my name being called by the Atlanta Braves in the second round. When I got to put on the uniform, I was like, this is what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid. So, it was a surreal moment and I’m grateful that I’m playing for the Braves.
GM: As you embark on this first full season of pro ball, has there been anybody that you talk to or leaned on? Because it is a grind. It’s not the 162, but the 140 not a joke either.
DW: One of the main guys I like to talk to is Fred McGriff. I got to play for him when I was coming up through travel ball, when I got to play on the Braves’ scout team. So, me and him stay in touch, especially now that I’m playing for the Braves. He’s been a great mentor for me, just telling me I’ve got to keep working and it’s not easy, especially your first season. You’ve just got to continue to grind it out and do what you’ve got to do for your body. Whether that’s getting in the training room early or getting your lifts in every week, you just gotta stay on top of everything to stay healthy and stay strong throughout the season.
GM: I talked to Brian Bridges back on draft day, when you guys were selected, first Kyle Wright and then yourself. I had no idea that you had played for McGriff. That had to be a pretty interesting connection, and I’d imagine that’s more or less what may have put you on the Braves radar in some ways.
DW: Yeah, it’s actually funny. A lot of the mock drafts had me going before the Braves second pick. And the day before the draft, Fred McGriff was texting me and saying, “Oh, you better sign with the Braves.” But I knew deep down that the Braves would be a good pick for me, just because a lot of the affiliates are right by my house and being able to stay home and play in front of the hometown crowd is just something you dream of. So, I was super excited about playing for the Atlanta Braves.
GM: Walk me through the winter for a moment. I know you don’t have a terrible lot of time when it comes to the offseason. Seems like it goes by pretty quickly, but were there some things you keyed in on? You mentioned a little bit about tightening up the swing and working on a couple of things there, what in specific were you spending your time on this winter?
DW: One of the major things is when I was hitting last season, especially late in the season when my body started to get tired, I just tried to do too much and I got into a bad habit of having bad posture in my swing. What I mean by that is when I’d go to load, I’d kind of hunch up with my upper body and when I do that my head would turn with it, causing me not to be able to see pitches. So, I was chasing a lot out of the zone, which led to a lot of strikeouts. This offseason I really focused on my posture and on my upper body, just to make sure that I’m not chasing pitches and so my swing path is where I want it to be. And then another thing is my lower half, I am working on calming things down so I can hit all three pitches more efficiently.
GM: As you get into the season, everyone’s goals, of course, are to stay healthy, win baseball games and develop or evolve as players. Some of these guys you got a chance to get in the trenches with last year. Who in particular did you get to play with that you are looking forward to getting back out there this year with?
DW: Honestly, I’m looking forward to playing with all of the guys. You hear some guys talk about their organization and how they don’t really enjoy being around the guys, but in the Braves organization everyone is a great guy. It’s a lot of young talent, a lot of pitchers, but I really think there’s a lot of great position players that are coming up through the organization, especially on this team. There’s also a lot of sleepers. I think the biggest one that caught me off guard was Jean Carlos Encarnacion, our third baseman. A lot of people didn’t really know who he was until last season. I didn’t even know who he was, but then I started playing with him over the course of the season. I got called up to Danville and got to play with him there. Just watching him play and watching how he goes about the game, he really caught my attention. He’s going to be a really good player.
GM: To follow up on that, there is a lot of talent in the organization. I am sure for players, whether position players or pitchers, it has to be a lot of fun to surround yourself with those kinds of guys with that kind of talent to raise the competition level beginning in the spring…
DW: I mean, when you’ve got an organization like the Braves, everyone pushes everybody. I think right now a lot of people focus in on the pitching prospects, just because everyone hears all the great pitchers that are in the organizations, but there’s really just as many good position players as there are pitchers, but just the position players are younger. I personally think that we’re going to have a lot of good position players come up through the organization that’ll make an impact in the big leagues.