The Royals completed their second deal last week, acquiring former top prospects in the outfield Drew WatersMinor League Righty Andrew Hoffman and minor league corner infielders CJ Alexander from the Braves in exchange for their Competitive Balance draft pick (No. 35 overall). Both teams have announced the swap.
The 15 selections in the two Competitive Balance rounds – Round A ranging from #33-39, Round B from picks 67-74 – are the only picks that can be traded for the annual draft and can only be traded once (meaning the Braves can’t). then flip the selection to another team). The number 35 Atlanta receives has a slot value of $2,202,100, all of which will be added to the $8,022,200 bonus pool allocated by the league. This will take the Braves from the 19th largest draft pool to the 10th largest (without additional trades).
The additional choice and financial power give the Braves additional funds to replenish the farm after giving up four prospects to acquire Matt Olson in this off-season (not to mention the few trades that have been made on each of the recent key dates). Between those deals, low draft picks in recent years (due to strong regular-season performances), and international free-agent penalties inflicted on the former front-office regime, the once-vaunted Braves farm system has taken a hit suffered.
Waters, 23, was among the sport’s top 100 prospects from 2019-21 but has seen his stock fall precipitously in recent seasons as he struggles with triple-A pitching. Waters is currently in his third season with Triple-A Gwinnett, but his .246/.305/.393 batting line is no improvement over the pedestrian performance he recorded there in both 2019 and 2021. In a total of 788 plate appearances at The Triple-A Level, Waters is a .246/.324/.383 hitter. Those struggles are reflected in the fact that the former second-round pick, once seen as a key building block for the Braves organization, is now instead part of a three-player package that gave Atlanta a six-seat draft pick bring in will be higher than Waters was selected half a decade ago.
With Ronald Acuna Jr. and MichaelHarris II will hold two-thirds of Atlanta’s outfield going forward — plus veterans Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna and Guillermo Heredia all signed or controlled beyond the current season, there wasn’t much immediate room for Waters to make an impact on the big league outfield anyway. Braves fans might be discouraged considering what Waters would have scored in a trade if he had been transferred a year or two ago, but the team managed to add some value to the former Futures game competitor achieve.
From the Royals’ perspective, the long-term outfield picture is far less certain, so there’s good reason to jump at a chance to get Waters back on track. Kansas City has been working to launch a successful product over the past few seasons, and while the results weren’t in, Waters offers a more immediate potential to help the team than whoever landed with that No. 35 would be overall selection. Waters hit a huge .319/.366/.481 batting line in a pitcher-friendly Double-A setting in 2019 when he was one of the league’s youngest players. Baseball America and MLB.com both ranked him in the top 40 for the sport’s overall prospects in consecutive offseasons.
With Andreas Benintendi anything but safe being traded and midfielder Michael A Taylor a candidate also slated to leave – he has signed until 2023 at affordable rates – the royals will soon have some vacancies in the outfield. If veteran Whit Merrifield is finally postponed by this year’s deadline, that would mean a further withdrawal from the outfield force.
The organizational hope was this 25-year-old Kyle Isbel may claim a long-term spot in the outfield mix, but he’s currently only hitting .216/.248/.328. Twenty six years old Edward Olivares has done well in a much more limited role. In general, however, the Royals are thin in the outfield. College pitching has been a focus of her designs during her recent makeover, and while she’s had standout young options at shortstop/third base (Bobby Witt Jr.), catcher (MJ Melendez) and first base/designated hitter (Vinnie Pasquantino, Nick Prato), there’s no ebullient outfielder smashing the door to the majors for the royals at the moment. Waters is clearly something of a project, but he will give royals an immediate option to join this young core if he can actually benefit from a change of scene.
Also on the way to the Royals are Hoffmann, a 22-year-old right-hander who was selected in the 12th round of last year’s draft, and Alexander, a 25-year-old who has shown power, speed and worrisome struggles in play against younger contenders on the Base has shown in double A.
Hoffmann was ranked 16th among Braves prospects on FanGraphs and 23rd on MLB.com, where scouting reports of the 6’5-inch righty peg ranked him high as a back-of-the-rotation – Designate piece – quite a remarkable step forward for a player a year away from being selected so late in the draft. So far in 2022, Hoffmann has had stellar Class A numbers and 15 starts with a 2.36 ERA, 28.4% strikeout rate, 6.6% walk rate and 46 groundball rate. 3% achieved. Hoffmann’s fastball is in the 91-93 mph range – below average by today’s standards – and he relies heavily on above-average commands to mitigate the lack of a primary power offering.
Alexander, on the other hand, isn’t as highly regarded – as you’d expect from a player in his third journey through Double-A, despite turning 26 this month. Alexander, who was selected in the 20th round in 2018, has drastically reduced his strikeout rate in 2022 as it currently stands at 21.8% after being at 32% in 2019-21. He’s hit 15 home runs and gone 13-to-15 in stolen base attempts through 289 plate appearances this year, but Alexander has also run at a meager 4.8% rate. Overall, his .258/.294/.465 isn’t particularly exciting, but he gives Kansas City another infield left corner hitter since he can also play on first base.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported on the trade (Twitter connections).