Drew Waters chose his local Braves over his local school. So far, he’s thrilled with his decision.
The Braves selected Waters, an 18-year-old from Etowah High School, with the 41st pick in the June MLB draft. A $1.5 million bonus – slightly under slotted value – convinced him to pass on the University of Georgia to join his lifelong favorite team.
Waters joined several former Braves at Brian McCann’s Rally Foundation softball game Nov. 11. The annual event raises money for child cancer research.
It was Waters’ first public event appearance since signing with the Braves. He spoke with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the game.
“I think it’s something cool to do,” he said. “All the guys that come out here, they’re big baseball fans. For us to come out, it makes the event even that more special. But not only that, it’s special for the kids too. It’s cool to be able to come out here and spend time with kids that have cancer and tell them that they’re special too.”
Waters reportedly is included as a subject of MLB’s investigation into the Braves’ signings of multiple domestic and international players. The investigation led to the resignations of general manager John Coppolella and special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who rescinded his resignation but hasn’t worked for the team in that span.
The Yahoo Sports report indicated Waters allegedly was offered illegal benefits to sign under slot, citing Coppolella offered a car to cover the difference. Coppolella and Waters’ agent Keith Grunewald denied foul play and suggested the offer was “made in jest,” according to sources in the report.
Braves CEO Terry McGuirk said Monday he expects MLB to issue sanctions within the next two weeks. If implicated, Waters could be declared a free agent.
Waters said he wouldn’t talk about the pending investigation.
At least for now, the switch-hitter remains an up-and-comer in the Braves’ system. Waters couldn’t have much of a better start: In 14 Gulf Coast League games, he hit .347 with a pair of homers and 10 RBIs.
Then reality set in, and it was an unknown experience for young gun.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “When I first started playing, I was hitting like .350 with a couple home runs and doubles for the first ten or so games. Then I got called up to Danville, and I was off to a hot start there, then there were like three weeks where I just couldn’t do anything but strikeout. I was like, ‘This has never happened to me before in my life.’”
He finished with a .255 average, two homers and 14 RBIs in 149 at-bats at Danville.
“It was a huge learning point for me because I’d learn to accept failure and move on from it,” Waters said. “I feel like next year if it ever happened again where I started to fail, I’d have a good feeling I could get out of it pretty quickly and continue to succeed.”
It was a rather large leap for a kid facing high school players within the last year. Part of that learning process was figuring out that pitchers have much better command in the lower levels.
Waters likely will spend his 2018 season in Danville and Single-A.
“Everybody’s grown men, really,” Waters said. “The big thing with pitchers (in the minor leagues) is they throw a lot harder, the breaking pitches are sharper, they can spot up whenever they want in whatever type count. So it makes it tough as a hitter, but you know, you always hear (when) you surround yourself with the best, you tend to get better.
“I’d have to agree with that because the improvements I’ve made just through this half-season, I’m a much better player now than I was before the draft.”