Waters already a GA Classic

Photo: Perfect Game

Jeff Dahn
Published: Wednesday, July 13, 2016

PG All-American Classic Selection Show | 2016 PG All-American Classic Rosters

FORT MYERS, Fla. – At mid-morning Wednesday, out on the back-fields at the Boston Red Sox’s jetBlue Player Development Complex, it was easy for Drew Waters to be just another nameless face amongst all the activity and relentless hubbub.

All six fields were alive, what with games being played as part of both 17u PG Super25 National Championship and the 14u PG Series Classic event. Waters was on the grounds as a member of the Marietta, Ga.-based 6-4-3 DP Cougars team that is considered among the favorites to win the17u PG Super25 title after the organization won 15u and 10u PG Super25 championships in 2015.

It was a great day for Waters to be at a baseball field, just playing the game he loves with many of his best friends in the world. And while Waters may have been a nameless face to many, in Perfect Game’s world he was anything but.

The rest of the country wouldn’t find this out until later in the day, but Waters was already aware that he been selected to be a member of the East Team at the 2016 PG All-American Classic, to be played Aug. 14 at beautiful Petco Park in downtown San Diego.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be selected for the All-American Classic and I’m very excited to play with the top kids in the country,” he said Wednesday. “My brother (Zach Waters) is five years older than me so I’ve been around Perfect Game for a while, and a lot of his friends got selected; I’ve always dreamed about playing in it.”

Waters, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound, switch-hitting outfielder from Woodstock, Ga., who is ranked No. 17 nationally and is a U. of Georgia commit, is one of seven top Georgia prep prospects from the class of 2017 that are on the 25-man East Team roster (there is also a 25-man West Team roster).

The other Georgians are: No. 6-ranked left-hander D.L. Hall (Warner Robins, Florida State); No. 18 outfielder Kyle Jacobsen (Acworth, South Carolina); No. 25 outfielder Cole Brannen (Elko, Georgia Southern); No. 37 outfielder Terriez Fuller (Griffin, uncommitted); No. 38 catcher Luis Campusano (Augusta, Missouri); and No. 45 catcher Steven Williams (Albany, Auburn).

There is just no shortage of top-notch talent in Georgia, and Waters has an idea as to why: “I honestly think that just living in Georgia, the competition is so strong there that being around a lot of other guys that are just as good as you are, it really pushes you to work harder and get after it every day,” he said.

And a lot of the Georgia school-boy talent is on this 6-4-3 DP Cougars team that got off to a 2-0 start at the 17u PG Super25 National Championship. While Waters is the most highly regarded prospect on the roster, it is lineup that also includes top 2017s like No. 138 left-hander/first baseman Brant Hurter (Canton, Georgia Tech) and No. 428 corner-infielder/catcher/right-hander Sean Mootrey (Atlanta, uncommitted).

There are also seven top-500s on the team, including Georgia Tech commits Hugh Chapman (Smyrna) and Jamie Taylor (Johns Creek); Georgia commit Steven Minter (Powder Springs); Notre Dame recruit Jared Miller (Marietta); Nebraska verbal Kennet Sorenson (Smoke Rise) and College of Charleston commit Zach Williams.

“We believe in training guys to do more than one thing,” 6-4-3 DP Cougars head coach Danny Prago said Wednesday. “Just having so many different pieces that kind of intertwine between the infield and the outfield and pitcher, it makes it a good fun problem (filling out a lineup) every day because they can all play everywhere.”

In their two wins on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Cougars outscored their opponents by a combined 18-5, including a 10-0 victory over the Central Florida Outlaws on Wednesday (a second game scheduled for Wednesday was in a late afternoon lightning/rain delay as this was written). They were led offensively by guys like Taylor, Minter and Miller and 2016 lefty Emory Otott (Acworth, Georgia Tech) pitched six one-hit, shutout innings with nine strikeouts and three walks in Wednesday’s win.

But the real star, to no one’s surprise, was Waters, who has been switch-hitting since he was 6 years old. In seven plate appearances he went 5-for-7 (.714) with a double, triple, home run, five RBI and four runs scored, and posted a whopping 2.286 on-base-plus-slugging percentage; he tripled and homered, drove in three runs and scored two on Wednesday.

What follows is Prago’s scouting report on his PG All-American:

“First of all, we feel lucky to have Drew and the whole Waters family with us; they’re just awesome people,” the 6-4-3 DP Cougar head coach said. “Drew brings to us just a different type of athleticism. He can run, as we all know. He switch-hits with power from sides, and by bringing that speed asset too, he’s a real tough man to double-up with a ball hit on the ground.

“He covers incredible ground in the outfield with and incredibly strong, accurate arm, and he also gives you middle-infield options because he’s a heck of a shortstop. Just his versatility and what that brings to the team in itself is (very helpful).”

Waters is already a veteran of more than 20 PG events since 2012 with a couple more scheduled at the end of the month before the Classic. All of the events were either PG WWBA, PG BCS or PG Super25 tournaments with the exception of an appearance at the 2014 Southeast Underclass Showcase at the LakePoint complex in Cartersville, Ga., where he was named to the Top Prospect List. He was also at the 2016 PG National Showcase here in Fort Myers the second week of June where he ran a 6.69-second 60-yard dash and threw 95 mph from the outfield.

Waters started his PG career as a 13-year-old in 2012 playing three tournaments with the East Cobb Astros. He made his 6-4-3 DP Cougars debut at the 14u PG WWBA National Championship in early July 2012, and hasn’t played for another organization since. It’s been a good fit, with eight PG all-tournament team selections and a Most Valuable Player Award at last summer’s 16u PG WWBA National Championship Qualifier in Cartersville.

“Perfect Game events are the best of the best,” Waters said. “You get the best competition and you can always count on scouts being there. When you look at the reasons you’re playing it’s usually because you want to play at the next level, and Perfect Game does a really good job of getting scouts out here to watch you play.”

With the PG All-American Classic still a month away, Waters’ focus right now is on winning the 17u PG Super25 National Championship. He really likes his team’s chances not only because of the obvious talent that is in the dugout but also because of the team’s chemistry. They’ve all been playing together for at least three years now and, according to Waters, it’s a scrappy group that knows each other strengths and weaknesses and does its best to avoid the weaknesses. Good thinking …

“The best part of this group is that they’re truly like a family,” Prago said, which fits perfectly into the PG Super25 concept. “It’s a fun, positive dugout. It doesn’t matter who’s starting, who’s coming off the bench, who’s on the mound first, who’s coming in next, they all understand that whatever is asked of them that day, that’s what their role is. … These guys truly bring a team/family atmosphere to the park every day and I think that’s what makes them different; they just have so much fun feeding off of each other.”

Even with so many highly ranked players with prestigious college scholarship offers sharing the same dugout, this group of 6-4-3 DP Cougars is able to leave its egos out in the garage, according to Prago. The players are mature enough to realize that when they reach that next level – be it at college or in the minor leagues – they’re only going to be one of a couple of dozen great players wearing the same uniform.

When the subject changes to his development, Waters said the two people who have the biggest impact on his baseball career are Prago and his hitting coach, Jay Hood, a former minor league player. Hood is an assistant varsity baseball coach at Holy Innocents Episcopal School in Atlanta and been helping Waters with his hitting stroke for a couple of years.

“He’s (really helped) my hitting,” Waters said of Hood. “He’s really opened up my power and it’s been showing in all the events that I’ve been to.”

It’s interesting that both of Waters’ parents, Mitch and Lisa Waters, list Georgia Tech among the schools they attended – Mitch played college football at both Tech and Auburn University – so it wouldn’t have been surprising if Drew had chosen to become a Yellow Jacket. But his brother, Zach, ended up pitching at UGA, his sister, Caroline, was a soccer player for the Bulldogs and several of his former and current 6-4-3 DP teammates also chose UGA.

“They kind of put the pinch on me and I went up to Georgia and I ended up falling in love with it,” Waters said. “My parents are OK with it now.”

As mentioned at the top of this piece, Waters is joined on this year’s PG A-A Classic East roster by six fellow Georgians, including the three other outfielders: Jacobsen, Brannen and Fuller. Waters and Jacobsen were teammates on 6-4-3 DP squads in 2013 and 2014 and know each other very well, and he knows all the other Georgia 2016 All-Americans from playing against them at PG events the last three or four years. “They are all great players,” Waters said.

It is quite a legacy these seven Georgians will contribute to. There were 22 Georgia high school prospects on the PG All-American Classic East roster in the five years between 2011 and 2015, and that includes nine primary outfielders: Skye Bolt (2011); Clint Frazier, Austin Meadows and Josh Hart (all 2012); Michael Gettys (2013); and Daz Cameron, Isiah Gilliam, Jahmai Jones and Brandt Stallings (all 2014).

“It’s a huge accomplishment because those guys have already had great careers and they’re the best of the best,” Waters said. “Now most of them are continuing their careers in pro ball and that’s where I’d like to be someday. I feel very honored just to be a part of that group.”

Added Prago: “The beauty of it with Drew, too, is that he’s not close to peaking yet. He’s in this great athletic body but yet he’s still young and he’s still going to get taller, he’s still going to get bigger, and he also knows that this game is a never-ending learning process. Drew comes here every day ready to learn … and as long has he stays in that mindset I think he’ll absolutely fit right in with those guys and maybe even have a shot to go further.”

The humble Waters makes no bones about what he hopes to accomplish in the next 11 months leading up to the 2017 MLB Firsts-Year Player Draft and stated boldly – without the slightest hint of arrogance – that he hopes to rise to the No. 1 position in PG’s class of 2017 rankings. It’s always been his dream to be a first-round draft pick and he took a huge step toward achieving that simply by being selected to take part in the PG All-American Classic – the event’s track record speaks for itself.

It will be only another month before Waters and 49 other top prospects from around the country’s mainland, Puerto Rico and Canada will be gathered in beautiful San Diego, which just hosted the MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night. The visit to Rady Children’s Hospital and Trevor Hoffman’s Pacific Ocean beachfront home will be highlights as will the game itself, televised live on the MLB Network. “I can’t wait,” Waters said. “It’s going to be fun.”

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