Swing Adjustments Pay Off For Drew Waters
Outfielder Drew Waters can testify that experience is a great teacher, regardless of how short the session may be.
Drafted in the second round last year, Waters hit .278/.362/.429 with four home runs in 50 games at two Rookie-level stops. The Woodstock, Ga., high school product played well overall, yet realized he needed to alter his high leg kick to reduce his elevated strikeout rate of 31 percent.
"A lot of people look at me and say, ‘He has really fast hands,' " said Waters, 19. "But what always hurt me was my lower half. I had a lot going on with my lower half, and that led to a lot of people criticizing me going into the draft.
"That was one big thing I focused on this past offseason. I’m making sure my lower half is creating a solid foundation so that my upper half and hands can work.”
Waters has received positive feedback from his adjustment this season at low Class A Rome. The switch-hitter batted .305/.344/.563 with six home runs in his first 38 games while striking out 22 percent of the time. He was driving the ball with aplomb, despite battling a bruised hand that sidelined him from April 22 to May 8.
Waters, whom scouts regarded as one of the top athletes and hitters among Georgia preps last year, became the latest Atlanta-area player drafted early by the Braves. He led Etowah High to its first Class 7-A state title as a senior.
Scouting director Brian Bridges and his staff knew Waters well, with Bridges describing the center fielder as "an old-school baseball player who has the ability and tools to carry himself to the next level.”
"They called me around pick 32," Waters recalled, "and when it came up on the television nine picks later that I had been drafted by Atlanta, everyone went crazy. It was a dream come true to get the opportunity to play for my hometown team.”
Waters is playing his home games in Rome, which is less than an hour’s drive from his family. That scenario, combined with the guidance of R-Braves manager Rocket Wheeler and hitting coach Bobby Moore, has Waters making impressive strides in his first taste of full-season ball.
"So far it’s been really good,” Waters said. "I’m having a lot of success by being in a good environment and being close to home and having a lot of my support system at the games.”
Braden Shewmake Exceeds Expectations
After a successful pro debut, the 2019 first-rounder could move quickly through the minors and supply depth.
>> Triple-A Gwinnett third baseman Austin Riley is blossoming into a premier power hitter while also hitting for average. His .308 average, 10 home runs and 38 RBIs all ranked among the highest in the organization.
>> Rome lefthander Bruce Zimmerman, a 2017 fifth-round pick out of Division II Mount Olive (N.C.), reached double digits in strikeouts in three of his six starts in May to lead the organization in whiffs and wins. Zimmerman has a clean, fluid delivery with solid movement on his low-90s fastball