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Braves Select Drew Waters, Three Others

The Braves announced that they’ve added four prospects — outfielder Drew Waters and right-handed pitchers Freddy TarnokBrooks Wilson and William Woods — to their 40-man roster. All four players would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft if not added to Atlanta’s roster before tomorrow evening’s deadline. The club’s 40-man is now full.

Waters is the highest-profile of the bunch. A second-round pick in 2017, the switch-hitting outfielder emerged as one of the sport’s most promising prospects early in his career. Waters hit very well in the low minors, flashing a strong combination of bat-to-ball skills, athleticism and defensive aptitude in center field. By 2019, he’d made it onto Baseball America’s top 100 overall prospects list. He remained one of the game’s top farmhands over the next few years, topping out at #32 entering this past season.

The 2021 campaign was something of a struggle, though, as the 22-year-old spent the entire year with Triple-A Gwinnett. He hit .240/.329/.381 with 11 homers over 459 plate appearances, striking out at an alarming 30.9% clip. As he’s climbed the minor league ladder, evaluators have increasingly raised questions about his aggressive approach at the plate. Waters’ issues against high minors pitching have dinged his stock a bit, but he still checked as the #6 farmhand in the system this offseason and was always a lock to be protected given his pre-2021 pedigree. Depending on how the Braves address their uncertain outfield mix this winter, Waters could be a big league option fairly early in 2022.

Tarnok, Atlanta’s third-round pick in 2017, has slowly progressed up the minor league ladder. The 22-year-old (23 next week) reached Double-A this season, where he worked to a 2.60 ERA over 45 innings with a fantastic 33.7% strikeout percentage and a manageable 8.3% walk rate. Keith Law of the Athletic wrote in July that Tarnok could be an above-average starter at his peak, praising his 93-96 MPH fastball, athleticism and curveball feel. He’s yet to reach Triple-A, though, so it seems likely the Braves will want Tarnok to get a bit more seasoning in the minors before bringing him up for his big league debut.

Wilson, 25, was a seventh-round pick out of Stetson University in 2018. He’s never appeared on an organizational ranking at either FanGraphs or Baseball America, but he had a very strong season between Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett in 2021. Over 50 innings of relief, Wilson worked to a combined 2.34 ERA with an astronomical 41.4% strikeout rate and a 9.4% walk percentage. He could be an option for the MLB bullpen as soon as next season.

Woods, 22, was a 23rd-rounder in that 2018 draft out of a Tennessee junior college. Both BA and FanGraphs ranked him the #21 prospect in the Atlanta system entering 2021, praising his mid-high 90’s fastball and promising slider. Both outlets expressed reservations about his control but suggested his velocity could at least make him an effective option out of the bullpen. Injuries limited him to just four appearances at High-A Rome this year.

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