When the top third of the lineup goes 1-for-13, as MJ Melendez, Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino did for the KC Royals against Cleveland Monday evening, someone has to step up.
Batting at the opposite end of the order, eighth-place hitter Drew Waters, who MLB Pipeline ranked as Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect before Kansas City traded its 2022 Competitive Balance draft pick to the Braves for him in July, singled home Edward Olivares in the second inning to give Kansas City a short-lived lead.
The single extended his hit streak to four games and gave him at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games.
Little did anyone know Waters was saving his best of the night for last.
With the game tied 2-2 in the 10th and automatic runner Nicky Lopez at third and Michael A. Taylor at first, Waters hammered this home run over the left field fence to give the Royals a three-run advantage:
Reliever Taylor Clarke successfully protected the lead and Kansas City won 5-2.
Waters’ homer, his fifth since his late August arrival in the majors, and four RBIs strengthened his already decent case to begin next season with the Royals.
KC Royals outfield prospect Drew Waters may not be a prospect much longer.
For a No. 1 prospect, Waters wasn’t attracting much positive attention at Triple-A Gwinnett before coming to the Royals: he was hitting just .246 with five homers when Atlanta let him go. But he revived his bat soon after the trade and was batting .295 with seven homers at Omaha when the Royals couldn’t resist testing him in the majors. He went hitless in his Aug. 22 debut at The K against the White Sox, and hitless again the next against Arizona before going 2-for-3 in his third game.
It took Waters 13 games to hit his first major league homer, a Sept. 5 two-run shot off Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie, the same pitcher he tagged for his run-scoring single Monday night. He didn’t collect another until Sept. 22 against the Twins at Kauffman.
Now, however, Waters has three home runs in his last four games. He clubbed one Friday night in the opener of this six-game series with the Guardians, and another Saturday night in Kansas City’s 7-1 win. Four of his five home runs, then, have come at Cleveland’s expense.
Waters’ Monday night homer and single raised his average to .261. He also has a good .350 OBP, a .523 SLG, and 18 RBIs in 30 games. And he hasn’t failed any of the outfield tests manager Mike Matheny has given him—he’s yet to make an error in 17 games in right field, 10 in center and three in left.
Although he strikes out too much (32 K%), Waters’ bat and glove make him an ideal candidate to snare one of the Royals’ 2023 Opening Day roster spots; MLB Pipeline currently ranks him as the franchise’s seventh best prospect, but his days as just a prospect may be nearing their end.
Look for Drew Waters in Kansas City next season.