The Georgia high school scene has become a hotbed of talent on both sides of the ball over the last several years. In the outfield alone, players like Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier have reached the big leagues while Taylor Trammell and Brandon Marsh are among the game's best prospects. They are led on the prospect front now by Waters, a 2017 second-round pick who has raced up the organizational ladder to reach Triple-A at age 20 in 2019 and won both the batting title and MVP honors in the Double-A Southern League.
A switch-hitter with tremendous tools, Waters has shown he can impact the baseball from both sides of the plate. He's better from the left side, but he is capable of driving the ball to all fields each way, especially when he's on time with his loose, buggy-whip of a swing. He's still learning to tap into his raw power and there's confidence that many of his doubles (40 in 2019) will turn into home runs as he matures and refines his approach at the plate. That's the only concern about Waters offensively right now, as his strikeout rate spiked in 2019. His walk rate went up a bit, but his overall 164/39 K/BB ratio will have to improve for him to have prolonged success in the big leagues.
Waters' speed is a plus on both sides of the ball. He has more than enough range and the instincts to stay in center field, though he saw time in all three outfield positions a year ago as he played alongside fellow prospect Cristian Pache. He's been overshadowed by Pache at times, but just like his organization-mate, he's way ahead of the curve developmentally and also has the chance to be an impact player in his own right.
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
The Braves deservedly have a reputation for developing young pitching, with many exciting arms reaching Atlanta in 2018 and many more to come. But it would be a mistake to look past the outfield pipeline as well. Ronald Acuna Jr. made a huge splash in Atlanta last year, Cristian Pache is ready to attack the upper levels of the system and Waters, taken from the Georgia high school ranks in the second round of the 2017 Draft and coming off a very successful first full season that included a South Atlantic League All-Star nod and a promotion up a level, caught up to Pache and played alongside him in Double-A in 2019.
Waters has the chance to be an impactful hitter from both sides of the plate. Mechanical adjustments on his swing, particularly his stride, allowed him to be on time with his buggywhip stroke. He's better from the left side currently, but has shown the ability to make hard contact and drive the ball both ways, with raw power sure to turn into more consistent in-game pop as he matures. Waters' plus speed works on the basepaths, where he is a threat to steal, and in the outfield, and he has every chance to stick in center field long-term.
After a first full season in which Waters' considerable tools showed up perhaps ahead of schedule, the Braves are excited to see what the young outfielder can do as an encore. He has the chance to be a dynamic, elite-level performer, and seeing a young outfield of Acuna, Pache and Waters -- yes, he has the arm and offensive profile for right field -- in Atlanta should excite all Braves fans.
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
When Waters emerged as one of the best high school prospects from the state of Georgia, winning Gatorade state player of the year honors, the obvious landing place for him in the 2017 Draft was of course the Braves, who love bringing in talent from their own backyard. After a hot start in the Gulf Coast League, the second-round pick struggled with a promotion to the Appalachian League. But he clearly learned some lessons and has had a fantastic full-season debut in the South Atlantic League in 2018.
The toolsy outfielder made some solid adjustments at instructs last fall and it carried over into 2018, with the tweaks he made to his mechanics at the plate clearly helping him. He had tinkered quite a bit with his setup and they worked with him to stay with one approach, closer to what had worked for him in high school. He has a buggywhip of a swing, and work he did on his stride has helped him be on time more consistently, and that should continue to help him tap into his considerable raw power more consistently. Waters has plus speed, which will continue to aid him on the basepaths and in center field, where he has the chance to stick.
Waters is a veritable toolshed who needs time and reps to use those tools consistently and have them turn into performance. All the pieces are there for him to potentially develop into a dynamic everyday player and he took a large step in the right direction in 2018.
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
The Braves never shy away from drafting from their own backyard. So when Waters, part of another deep crop of Georgia high school outfielders, backed up his strong summer showcase circuit with a senior season that led to winning the Gatorade state player of the year award and a 7-A state title, they pounced in the second round. Waters signed for $1.5 million, a bit under pick value, and got off to a quick start in the Gulf Coast League.
A switch-hitter, Waters demonstrates more power from the left side of the plate. From the right side, he peppers the gaps with line drives. He has good feel for the barrel, has no problems handling quality fastballs and has the potential to hit for average and power.
A good athlete, Waters has plus speed and uses it to steal bases and play a fine center field. He also has plus arm strength that would fit nicely in right field if he's needed there, and he was getting time in both center and right during his pro debut.