LA Angels: Taylor Ward is proving he belongs with the Halos
By David Rice
When the LA Angels drafted Taylor Ward out of Fresno State with the 26th pick of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft, the Angels were hoping he would be the catcher of the future.
For the first three seasons Taylor Ward was in the LA Angels system, he was a catcher and worked very hard to better his defense and pitch-calling. He seemed to be on his way up. However, Ward’s hitting was struggling and his defense, while adequate, still left something to be desired according to many in the Angels organization.
The Angels decided to move Ward to third base to start the Minor League season in 2018 in hopes of taking some pressure off of him, and to get his bat going. This way he wouldn’t have to focus on catching, getting to know hitters the team would face, and also pitch-calling and defense.
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This paid immediate dividends as Ward hit .349 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs in the Minors (AA/AAA). This earned Ward his first trip to the “Show” where he hit .178 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 40 games. The biggest highlight of Ward’s stint that season was hitting a walk-off homer on the last day of the season which happened to be Mike Scioscia’s final game as Angels manager.
2019 was a lost season for Taylor Ward as he only played 20 games all season in Anaheim.
Ward took it in stride, telling me in a late season interview, “It was frustrating not being in the majors much, but I had a lot of things that I needed to work on to get better,” Ward said.
In 2020 the coronavirus stopped the beginning of the season in its tracks. When the season finally started Ward quickly was called up playing in 34 games in the outfield, especially right field, where top prospect Jo Adell was struggling mightily. In 34 games, Ward hit .277 but hit no homers and drove in only five runs.
2021 started poorly for Ward as he was sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake. Ward spent the first month of the season in the minors. Ward was finally called up on May 5th, but started slowly hitting .227 over the first 20 games with four homers and 14 RBIs.
However, Ward has raised his batting average to .237 by hitting .288 over the last 17 games (all stats in this article are as of before June 14th’s game). During that time period Ward has hit three homers and driven in ten runs. Not spectacular numbers, but Ward is trending upward.
For the season Ward has hit six homers (four of which have come when I have been in attendance), and driven in 19 runs and has played strong defense whether he plays in right field or center. He has a very good arm that goes back to his catching days and has not made an error in 69 total chances.
His home runs have also come at key times. Four of which have given the Angels the lead including a go-ahead homer last Saturday against the Seattle Mariners.
I’m not sure if Taylor Ward will ever be an All-Star or even an everyday player for the Angels, because when Mike Trout comes back in July there will only be one spot open in the outfield, which is right field at least until Jo Adell gets called up. Ward said he is willing to play wherever he is needed if it helps the team.
”I’ve been working on a few new positions so that I can get a chance to contribute on a more regular basis,” said Ward in a 2019 interview. “I just want to play as much as I can and try to help the team win games.”
If Ward can continue to play well and most importantly hit well, the Angels and manager Joe Maddon will find somewhere for Ward to keep him in the lineup. With the Angels playing very good baseball in the past two weeks going 9-3, the team is trending upward. Ward has been one of the many keys that has fueled the hot streak.
We will see what the next few weeks bring to Ward and the Angels. Hopefully this is the beginning of something big. Only time will tell.