LA Angels Top 25 Prospects: #11 Taylor Ward
By Ryan Falla
Taylor Ward is a former first round pick for the LA Angels and former catcher-turned-third baseman who recently made his debut with the Angels. He’s had a long, eventful journey to the Majors since his Draft Day.
Ward was initially pegged as the catcher of the future for the LA Angels before GM Billy Eppler decided to move him to 3B in order to utilize his skillset better and move him to the big leagues quicker. So far it seems to be a solid move considering Ward breaking into the Majors to end the 2018 season.
*this prospect list was put together during Ward’s prospect eligibility.
As a catcher Taylor Ward was prized for his defense while his hitting was seen as something that fell behind his defense. Now the script is starting to flip as his defense needs some brushing up in order to be true everyday quality. It’s to be expected as he just made the move to third and even then he’s still shown solid defense aside from his 5 Errors over 40 games. Funny enough, his hitting has seen major strides taken in the last year, mostly his power stroke coming into serious form.
Taylor Ward (3B)
Drafted in 2015 – 1st Round (26)
Throughout 446 MiLB plate apperances (in 2018) across Double A and Triple A Ward sizzled with a .531 slugging on top of a .349 average. This is a far cry from his sub .400 slugging across his MiLB career (aside from his debut season in which he slugged .438). Ward has always been great at limiting his strikeouts while tacking on the walks, overall his approach at the plate leaves little to be desired. He’s not much of a chaser at the plate and maintains the ability to stay within his approach, though that is something that needs to be carried into the MLB for him to find true success. Too often did pitchers get Ward to go outside of himself and needlessly expand his zone (46Ks/9BBs), but with MLB reps he can get that under control.
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What was once a likely defense first/hitting second backup catcher has turned into a solid looking third baseman who can pound the ball. Ward isn’t much of a masher, it’s mostly that his ability to produce line drives off his contact has grown into seeing balls enter the stands. He jumped from 9 HR’s and 49 RBI’s in 2017 to 14 HR’s and 60 RBI’s in 2018 through Double A and Triple A. His previous career high was 10 HR’s in Class A Advanced, though next to his .659 OPS you don’t see too much consistency or confidence in hitting. That’s all changed in 2018 with Ward logging a .300+ BA and .500+ slugging while putting up these power numbers. These evolution are very encouraging to see given his former status as a “possible backup big leaguer who can get on base but not hit”.
Another big jump forward in his game was his speed on the basepaths. Previously Wards career high in Stolen Bases was 6 while being caught stealing 3 times back in 2015. In 2018 Ward stole a fantastic 18 bases while also being caught stealing only 3 total times. Talk about improvement! He’s not only exponentially blown up the positives, he’s held the negatives in check in a profound way.
All in all, Taylor Ward still does what he was originally great at. He walked 65 times to 98 K’s in 2018 and maintained a .446 OBP throughout the season. Now he has actual, quantifiable power added to his game, which isn’t the craziest thing in the world (seeing a 24 year old come into power), but is also kind of wild to see such a big jump so quickly.
We’re not saying Ward is morphing into a power-first hitter, only that power has become a real part of his natural line-drive contact stroke. Should Ward maintain his ability to seriously drive the ball he will see himself a staple in the Angels lineup for years to come. Especially if he hunkers down at 3B.
Developmental Needs: Defense, Maintaining Approach
Best Tools: Plate Approach, Contact, Line-Drive Ability, Burgeoning Power, Batters Eye, On-Base Ability, Baserunning, Mental Makeup