Los Angeles Angels prospect Taylor Ward turning heads.
By Grant Avise
The Los Angeles Angels made Taylor Ward their first-round pick in last year’s draft they knew what they were doing. Ward has been impressing many in the organization while playing for Single-A Inland Empire 66ers this season.
Taylor Ward had his first taste of the big leagues on Wednesday night and he didn’t even have to leave San Bernardino to get it. It came to him in the form of rehabbing Angels starter CJ Wilson. Wilson is trying to come back from surgery on his left elbow that removed bone chip and ended his season early last year. Wilson hasn’t pitched in a major league came since July of last year against the Astros.
While focusing on his rehab and getting back to the majors, Wilson found himself very impressed with his battery-mate during his start, Taylor Ward.
“He flashed some good tools behind the plate, and he also had some good at-bats especially that last one,” Wilson said of Ward. “He stuck a couple of really difficult pitches. I threw a two-seamer that was kind of a hip shot off the right hander and it came all the way back on the bottom of the zone but was strike. A lot of younger catchers have a tendency to track it too much with their hands and over catch it. He just trusted himself to stick it where he needed to and it worked out pretty well for us. We got the strikeout.”
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So how did Ward feel about catching C.J. Wilson and hearing that he spoke highly of him.
“It was awesome! To see how he could throw the ball almost anywhere he wanted to which was very impressive,” Ward said about catching Wilson, his first big league pitcher. “For a guy who has had probably 30 or more catchers in his career, that is a really great thing for me to have him say things like that about me. It’s just great.”
66ers manger Chad Tracy had some really nice things to say about his young catcher the Los Angeles Angels top-rated prospect. “(He) caught a big league guy tonight, and he caught him extremely well,” said Tracy of Ward. “Then after that we brought in a guy who was throwing knuckleballs and he caught all of those and didn’t drop a single ball. Two guys stole on him at 1.9 or less (Ward’s pop time from his crouch to his release) and he threw two balls down to second base and caught both guys. He’s just a terrific defensive catcher and is starting to come along with the bat. He’s just a good baseball player.”
The one knock on Ward’s game thus far has been his bat. So far in single-A this season he is hitting .231 with 1 home run and 15 runs driven in. Catching is a defensive position though and as the Los Angeles Angels have shown over the course of Mike Scioscia‘s tenure, they are willing to give up some offense for a strong defensive catcher.
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Ward has an incredibly strong throwing arm though. He and Wilson were playing long-toss before the game and Wilson was getting it to Ward but on the return Ward was almost over throwing Wilson. This kid has a lot of potential and he seems he’s hungry to keep getting better.
“From college to now, I’m a totally different catcher. From how I look to how I present pitches and how I do everything behind the plate,” Ward said. “I used to drop a knee, I used to cheat a lot. Now I don’t do that. I’m more quiet and I’ll probably never go back to that. I’m looking to keep working and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
We’ll keep our eye on Ward and keep you posted with his progress.
Good luck Taylor. We’re pulling for ya!
Follow Taylor Ward on twitter @warrdyboy7