Spring Training Fun: Seeing Tomorrow’s Players Up Close TODAY!

Spring Training Fun: Seeing Tomorrow’s Players Up Close TODAY!
FILE – Atlanta Braves pitchers, from left, A. J Minter, Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka run sprints during spring training baseball practice, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Kissimmee, Fla. (PHOTO – Curtis Compton / AP)

Part of the fun of taking in a Spring Training game is getting a chance to see players of tomorrow up close and personal. And at Braves camp, there’s no shortage of notable names in Big League camp this season. While the Braves made it a priority to stock up on young arms during the rebuilding years, there’s also a few top position players making noise in their first Big League camp. Drew Waters, the 20 year old from Woodstock, GA has opened a lot of eyes on the Atlanta coaching staff. With light tower power and a very simple, easy swing, it’s easy to see why the Braves were so high on him, taking him in the second round of the 2017 Draft. Waters, like Ronald Acuña a few years ago, is viewed as a potential quick riser through the Minor League system. Watching him take BP on the back fields, it’s easy to see why. With Chipper Jones arriving to camp as a guest instructor on Tuesday, I’m sure he will get a chance to impart some wisdom upon the young Waters over the next week and a half.

Also, on Tuesday, a pair of catching prospects had big days in the Braves win over the Mets at Disney. Alex Jackson got Atlanta on the board in the third with a laser beam solo shot to the berm in left, and in the sixth, Atlanta padded the lead as William Contreras blasted an opposite field two run homer into the Braves pen in right. Contreras, the younger brother of Cubs All-Star backstop Willson, is viewed as the Braves catcher of the future. Splitting time between Rome and Florida last season, Contreras combined to hit 11 homers and post a .783 OPS over 105 games, in his fourth professional season.

As for Jackson, his numbers took a step backwards a year ago at Triple-A, but the Braves would love to see him get back on track to provide some insurance, should something happen to Tyler Flowers or Brian McCann over the next six months. As we’ve talked so much about in regards to the pitching prospects having veterans to lean on, guys like Contreras and Jackson have the benefit of working alongside a World Series champion in Brian McCann, fellow veteran Tyler Flowers and catching coordinator Sal Fasano. The resources are certainly there for these young prospects to take advantage of, and based on what we’ve seen to this point, I don’t expect any less. Obviously, the main goal of Spring Training is for everyone to get their work in and prepare for the grind of a long season. But for guys like Waters, Contreras, Jackson and others, the ability to leave a positive impression on the coaching staff and Front Office is equally as important. But as a baseball fan, I really enjoy getting the opportunity to see how far some of these youngsters have come over the last year, and look forward to following them as they continue to progress up the ladder of the Braves Minor League system.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet