The KC Royals are still tuning up in Arizona, but fans are preparing for Opening Day. The day itself will be a huge event, on and off the diamond. It is, however, a new chapter for Royals fans. New manager, new front office, and new faces amongst the familiar young corps. Nearly a decade ago, the Royals began their journey toward a 2015 World Series championship. No fan is expecting an immediate turnaround, or at least realistic ones are not.
The KC Royals 2023 outlook relies heavily on players just starting their careers. What rookie does The Athletic peg as the most impactful?
Any progress in Kansas City will be on the backs of many second-year players, or even rookies. In that vein, The Athletic predicted the Royals' most impactful rookie in the 2023 season. Royals fans have not seen him in spring training, but their pick is no surprise.
The Athletic's Rustin Dodd recently tabbed outfielder Drew Waters as the Royals top 2023 rookie (subscription required). Waters joined Kansas City during the 2022 season and quickly outplayed the Triple-A Omaha competition. He played in 32 MLB games in the 2022 season and retained his rookie status ahead of the 2023 season. Waters made an immediate impact with a .809 OPS, five home runs, and 18 RBIs in less than 100 at-bats. He racked up .4 WAR in that limited action, sparking Royals fans' interest for his 2023 season.
Waters is far from a finished product, striking out 36.7% of the time in major-league action. But the Royals trading away Michael A. Taylor showed their confidence in Waters and Kyle Isbel, manning center field this season. Waters is currently sidelined with an oblique injury. His status for Opening Day remains uncertain, but his season's outlook remains positive.
Waters' prospect profile centered around his defense, speed, throwing arm, and switch-hitting ability. With Isbel's hot spring start, Waters will certainly have an uphill climb toward playing time in 2023. But the former top Braves prospect has found new life and a new career trajectory in a Royals uniform.