The Royals are finalizing a trade to acquire center field prospect Drew Waters, minor league pitcher Andrew Hoffman, and third baseman C.J. Alexander from the Braves for the 35th pick in the July draft, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. MLB Pipeline ranks the 23-year-old Waters as the #1 prospect in the Braves farm system, while Baseball America ranks him #5, and Fangraphs ranks him #10. He was a consensus top 50 prospect in all of baseball before the 2021 season when he had a disappointing performance that got him left off lists this year. In 49 games for Triple-A Gwinnett this year, Waters was hitting .246/.305/.393 with five home runs.
Waters is a switch-hitter originally drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft out of high school in Georgia. He was named Southern League MVP in 2019 after hitting .319/.366/.481 at Double-A and appeared in the Futures Game that summer. He is a five-tool player who doesn’t grade outstanding at any one tool, but doesn’t grade poorly in any tool either. MLB Pipeline writes he is an “aggressive hitter, one who swings and misses a good amount, with plenty of raw power he still is learning to get to.” Fangraphs raises red flags about that aggressiveness, writing that “upper-level pitching has exploited his free-swinging approach” and continues to “chase pitches that he either misses or that limit the quality of his contact.” He has cut his strikeout rate in a third season at Triple-A this year down to 27 percent, although his walk rate has also dropped to 7.6 percent.
The 22-year-old Andrew Hoffman is a right-handed pitcher selected in the 12th round of the 2021 draft out of the University of Illinois. In 15 starts for High-A Rome he had a 2.36 EAR with 90 strikeouts and 21 walks in 80 innings pitched. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #23 prospect in the system, writing he is a “strike-thrower” who throws in the low-90s, noting his deceptive delivery. They add that “both of his secondary offerings flash above-average and can miss bats, with a slider that typically sits low-80s and shows tight spin and a solid fading low-80s changeup.”
C.J. Alexander is a left-handed hitting third baseman who was selected in the 20th round of the 2018 draft out of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. The 25-year-old was hitting .258/.294/.465 with 15 home runs in 68 games for Double-A Mississippi. He does not walk much, but can run a bit with 14 steals in 15 attempts last year, and 13 swipes already this year.
The Royals will give up the 35th pick in the draft, their competitive balance pick to the Braves, which has a slot value of $2.2 million. Competitive balance picks, which are awarded to lower revenue clubs, are the only draft picks teams can trade.
Waters seems to have very good power for a switch-hitter, but it will be up to the Royals to develop him to have enough contact to be a threat at the Major League level. They are pretty thin on outfield prospects at the higher level, and Waters can compete for the starting centerfield job next year. This could also be a signal that the Royals intend to move outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who is signed through next year and has been enjoying a career-best season at the plate.
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