Taylor Ward entered this season with one clear mission. He had to prove that the season he just had for the Los Angeles Angels in 2022 was not a fluke. Ward performed at a star level for much of that season, and was locked in as the team's leadoff hitter for the 2023 season.
It looked like Ward was going to continue his ascension to stardom after an outstanding Spring Training and first couple of weeks in the regular season. He wound up just being very streaky in 2023.
Ward's season ended in the worst way imaginable after he was hit in the face by an Alek Manoah fastball. Hopefully he's ready to go for Spring Training in 2024.
Taylor Ward deserves a C+ for his 2023 season
Ward's overall numbers wound up being pretty pedestrian in 2023. He slashed .253/.335/.421 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI in 97 games. There's nothing wrong with having a decent year, but Ward's inconsistency made him hard to rely on. You never really knew what you were going to get each day.
After a hot start to his season, Ward finished the month of April with eight hits in his last 61 at-bats with just one home run over an 18 game span. It was his struggles that gave the Angels somewhat of a reason to promote Mickey Moniak.
Ward had a hot start to the month of May as well, only to then have an 8-for-53 stretch over a 15-game span that really hurt the Angels as they went 6-9 in those games. Ward did finally find some sort of consistency in late May through the end of his season where he'd post a .918 OPS in 199 plate appearances and 46 games.
The Angels outfielder really thrived hitting in the middle of the order instead of the leadoff spot. Once Phil Nevin finally moved Ward from the top, he started to really hit. He had OPS figures above .870 batting third, fourth, fifth, and sixth in the lineup, but had just a .680 OPS batting first.
Something that was noticeable in Ward's game this season was his aggression. Ward was extremely patient in 2022, drawing walks and waiting for his pitch. This season it felt like he was swinging early and often and that hurt him. Hitting coach Marcus Thames preached this, but it didn't really work throughout the lineup. Hopefully he goes back to his 2022 approach when he was just awesome.
What got Ward's grade up from a C to a C+ in my eyes was his defense, as Ward looked really comfortable playing a new position of left field. He was in the 76th percentile in outs above average and made some really nice plays in the outfield. Assuming he's healthy, there's no reason to not trust him to be more than capable defensively in either corner.
Ward did not replicate his all-star caliber 2022 season, but his overall numbers weren't bad by any means in 2023. Hopefully he can take that step forward in 2024.