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Braves' Waters confident in all five tools

@JimCallisMLB
March 21, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Watch Drew Waters play, and you can't help but notice his all-around ability. Talk to the Braves outfield prospect, and you can't miss his confidence. Asked to identify his best attribute and his worst attribute as player, Waters responded: "I think my best tool is

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Watch Drew Waters play, and you can't help but notice his all-around ability. Talk to the Braves outfield prospect, and you can't miss his confidence.

Asked to identify his best attribute and his worst attribute as player, Waters responded: "I think my best tool is probably my bat. My worst tool I have? In my mind, I don't have a bad tool."

Waters isn't wrong. A second-round pick as a suburban Atlanta high schooler in 2017, he batted .293/.343/.476 with nine homers and 23 steals in his first full pro season, reaching high Class A at age 19. Waters stands out most for his ability to make hard contact from both sides of the plate, but he also has plus raw power, speed, arm strength and center-field skills.

Braves Spring Training report | Top 30 Prospects | Prospects' Spring Training stats

"He's still really young, but he's ahead of the curve," Braves farm director Dom Chiti said. "At this point, he just needs to see more pitchers and get more at-bats. There's a couple of tweaks maybe with his swing. He runs well and has plus tools defensively."

The Braves thought Waters was advanced enough to merit a non-roster invitation to big league camp at age 20. He didn't look out of place this spring, going 4-for-13 with a double in Grapefruit League action.

While Waters believes in himself, he also knows he has work to do as he climbs up the Minor League ladder. He hammered low Class A pitching at a .303/.353/.513 clip last summer, but he dropped to .268/.316/.374 after an August promotion to high Class A. Waters attributes the slippage to getting worn down at the end of the longest season of his young career, underscoring the need to get stronger.

Offensively, Waters believes in his hands and his swing path, but he would like to do a better job of incorporating his lower half, which could help him realize more of his power potential. He acknowledges that his defense in center field probably needs the most work.

"I've always played defense off my athleticism and I've been able to get away with it," he said. "I think as I continue to go up, as I move into the big leagues, there are going to be smarter baseball players and the game's going to speed up, so you can't just rely on athleticism."

Waters is at least a couple of years away from being ready to join his hometown team in what could be a dazzling outfield. Ronald Acuna is the reigning National League Rookie of the Year Award winner and a 30-30 player waiting to happen. Cristian Pache, like Waters a member of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, is the consensus best defensive outfielder in the Minors and possesses well-above-average speed and arm strength to go with a developing bat.

If Pache and Waters reach their ceilings, the Braves eventually could have MLB's toolsiest outfield with three legitimate five-tool players. Waters smiled slightly when he considered that possibility.

"You don't really see too many guys that are the five-tool players, go out and steal 30 bases, make great plays on defense and can really swing it," he said. "It's definitely something I like to focus on, because I feel like as a five-tool player, you're one of the best if not the best out there on the field. You can do it all.

"My ability to run, my ability to play defense and my ability to hit, I do take pride in it, because at the end of the day I do want to be a five-tool player."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.