Grading the 2022 KC Royals: Outfielder Drew Waters

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kudos are due the KC Royals for the shrewd mid-July move they made last season. Still under the baseball operations leadership of Dayton Moore at the time, the club convinced Atlanta to trade Drew Waters, then the Braves' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and two other minor leaguers to Kansas City for its Competitive Balance pick in the lockout-delayed amateur draft.

That's it. A draft pick. Nothing more.

Waters, a switch-hitting outfielder with some power and speed, was the main focus of the deal for the Royals, who'd for several seasons been searching for ways to stabilize their outfield, and would soon trade left fielder Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees amid speculation of possible deals involving center fielder Michael A. Taylor.

What made Waters so readily and cheaply available was probably his slumping bat: he hit .240 in Triple-A in 2021 and was batting .246 there when traded to the Royals. And his reputation for striking out too often preceded him.

Fortunately for Waters and Kansas City, the trade with Atlanta paid immediate dividends. Waters, assigned to Triple-A Omaha, was hitting .295 with seven home runs and an eye-popping .399 OBP when the suitably impressed Royals promoted him to the majors Aug. 22.

How did he play the rest of the season?

Drew Waters didn't disappoint the KC Royals after they called him up.

Nothing Waters did at the big league level solved his strikeout problem: he fanned 36.7% of the time, a flaw in his profile that will take time to fix. That aside, however, he played well enough to put himself in the middle of Kansas City's 2023 outfield mix.

He hit .246, not a failure for a player who'd never seen a regular season big league pitch until Aug. 22, and his .324 OBP was certainly serviceable. Waters also homered five times and drove in 18 runs in 32 games. And he had a 125 wRC+ and 124 OPS+.

Waters was at times spectacular defensively, but his glove can stand some refinement.

How, then, to grade Waters' debut? Whether he's ready for an everyday role is a discussion for another day (MLB Pipeline rates him as KC's seventh best prospect), but his first shot in the big leagues deserves a decent mark. We're giving him a solid B.

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Drew Waters had a short, but good, season for the Royals.