Taylor Ward broke out in his age 28 season and was one of the best hitters in baseball for half of the season. With the Los Angeles Angels lineup much improved and Ward (hopefully) staying healthy, big things should be expected from him.
Angels outfielder Taylor Ward should take another step forward following his dominant 2022 campaign.
Taylor Ward spent time on the injured list with a groin injury before debuting in the Angels' ninth game of the season. He homered and reached base four times that night. He never looked back.
Ward slashed .392/.500/.784 with five home runs and 13 RBI in April. He drew 11 walks while striking out 12 times in 62 plate appearances. He had a 1.284 OPS. Had he played the entire month it's very possible he would've won the Player of the Month Award.
Ward continued his hot start with an unbelievable May. He slashed .314/.429/.614 with another five home runs and 13 RBI. Had it not been for Aaron Judge going insane all season it's very possible Ward would've won another Player of the Month, he was that good.
Heading into the May 20th game against the Athletics in Anaheim Ward was slashing .375/.488/.721 with nine home runs and 23 RBI. He was getting on base almost half of the time and was on a 35 home run pace. He was performing at an MVP level.
Unfortunately, May 20th is when Ward crashed into the wall while making an unbelievable catch. Ward missed the next six games but did not go on the Injured List. While that was great news at the time, he certainly was affected by the injury as he wasn't anything close to the same hitter.
From that moment on, Ward slashed .219/.293/.338 with just eight home runs and 24 RBI in 311 plate appearances. He was still drawing his walks, but he had lost the ability to hit for power and clearly wasn't the same.
Ward was showing signs of getting out of his three month-long slump at the end of August and in September he was the same hitter we saw in April and May. He slashed .345/.397/.575 with six home runs and 18 RBI. He finished the season slashing .281/.360/.473 with 23 home runs and 65 RBI.
It's clear the injury affected Ward and he still put up a monster season offensively. I'd expect an even better year assuming he doesn't barrel into the wall again. I'd expect him to be one of the league-leaders in OBP while hitting 25-30 home runs. With Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani behind him and better hitters at the end of the order I expect more runs scored and runs driven in as well.
While Ward broke out seemingly out of nowhere, the analytics back up his monster season. He ranked in the 93rd percentile in chase rate, the 92nd percentile in xwOBA, and the 89th percentile in xSLG according to baseball savant. The walks should be there as he doesn't chase. He was hitting the ball extremely hard and he should see pitches to hit with Trout and Ohtani looming.
2023 should be the season Taylor Ward becomes an all-star for the first time. He at the very least should produce similar numbers to those he produced this past season. I'm so excited to watch him play.