Stepping into the Kansas City Royals system, Trevor Werner braced himself for the terrors of minor-league baseball.
Werner, who played four seasons at Texas A&M prior to being selected in the seventh round of the 2023 MLB Draft, heard stories of a rigorous lifestyle for minor leaguers. From housing to travel, former professional baseball players opened Werner's eyes to the struggles of the minor-league grind.
But in today's game, those hurdles weren't apparent in Werner's first steps.
"I'm just surprised how well we are treated here in this organization," Werner said. "Whether it's the living or the facilities in Arizona to when I walked into Segra Park for the first time, I was like, 'Am I in the right place? Because this is not what I pictured Low-A to look like.' It's been a nice transition."
It hasn't just been a nice transition in facilities and housing for Werner. The third baseman made the most of his first assignment, going 5 for 15 with three extra-base hits in four games in the Arizona Complex League. He rode that success to a promotion to Single-A Columbia, becoming the first 2023 Royals draftee to join the affiliate.
In 31 games, Werner showed no signs of growing pains. The righty slashed .354/.459/.699 with 11 doubles, eight home runs, 36 RBIs and 21 walks to 31 strikeouts. He earned back-to-back Carolina League Player of the Week awards for Aug. 21-27 and Aug. 28-Sept. 3.
"It's obviously great to win those awards, and it's an honor to be recognized for the results. But at the end of the day, I'm not really chasing those things," Werner said. "It's just more of a day-to-day, game-by-game, pitch-by-pitch mentality."
Prior to being drafted, Werner knew more baseball wouldn't hurt — after all, his goal was to be an everyday player. He took to the Cape Cod League, where he played six games for the Brewster Whitecaps in 2022. He appeared in 10 games this past summer, collecting 12 hits — six for extra bases — in 35 at-bats.
"I had a little more playing time under my belt than some of the other guys, and so I think that contributed to getting as early start to games and stuff with the Complex League," Werner said.
Werner believed he needed to continue to prove himself. He took a fourth year at Texas A&M to do so, but his time in a summer league opened another avenue of exposure and competition.
"I didn't want to leave anything unanswered on the table before the draft," Werner said. "I think it ended up paying off for me. I had a good little run for a couple of weeks out in the Cape and then ended up getting selected by the Royals, so it all worked out."
Extra games in the Cape Cod League prepared Werner for everyday play. The consistent repetition of games fueled a successful stretch at the plate for the Fireflies, where he reached base safely in 29 of his 31 games.
Werner also rode a 12-game hit streak that spanned three series from Aug. 15-20. He hit .435 with seven doubles, five home runs, 18 RBI and a 1.484 OPS in that span.
"It's an everyday thing," Werner said. "I feel like the more you do it, you get used to playing every day and seeing different arms and just building your craft each day."
Werner knew the Royals held interest in him. He felt more comfortable entering an organization that wanted to draft him.
He has all the information he needs at hand now. Royals player development doesn't require hitters to consume it all the same, though. A cookie-cutter approach is replaced by a personalized outlook — one more appealing to a player with an old-school point of view.
"I don't like to use too much information," Werner said. "But you've still got to go out and play even if you have the information. You've just got to use what you want and go do the rest."
Manning third base in 20 games for the Fireflies, Werner committed eight errors on 36 total chances. He didn't change his approach but worked more on cleaning up the mistakes with manager Tony Peña Jr., who played shortstop in the major leagues.
Peña dubbed Werner a great athlete, one with tools to show good range, good hands and a plus arm. But where Werner looked to improve started mentally by trusting his instinct.
"We've been talking a lot about how he uses his feet reading the ball," Peña said. "Sometimes as an infielder, you let your mind tell you something that you see, but sometimes you might have a little bit of doubt in how to play that ground ball and you get in trouble."
Werner turned 23 years old on Sept. 3. The night prior, a contingent of family and friends surprised him in the stands at Segra Park in Columbia, South Carolina, and in the nightcap of the doubleheader, Werner hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning to force extra innings.
"It was cool because I got to do what I love on my birthday," Werner said. "You can't ask for much more."
Werner closed out his first professional season Sunday. Over his last week in Low-A, he went 9 for 22 with two doubles, a triple, a grand slam, nine RBIs, three stolen bases and four walks to four strikeouts. He heads into his first offseason on a high note, putting himself on pace to move quickly through the system.