Angels rookie Taylor Ward was the Angels top prospect in 2018. In 2015, he began his minor league career with the Orem Owls and quickly hit .349 and had an OPS of .948. He quickly escalated in the minor leagues all the way up to the Salt Lake Bees (AAA) this season. The Halos converted him from catcher to third baseman with Angels GM Billy Eppler’s giving this explanation, “Athletically, how he profiles is very similar to some of our high-end position players, so we feel that’s where he profile’s the best.” Ward then became the Halos third baseman of the future. And yes, the Angels have had a couple of third base prospects that were amazing in AAA but couldn’t succeed in the majors. I’m sure fans groan when they hear the names of Dallas McPherson and Brandon Wood.
So the question is this: Is Taylor Ward the real deal? In his major league debut, Ward went 2-for-3 with an RBI double against the Padres in a 7-3 win. He started off pretty hot before cooling off and ending the season with a .178 batting average with 45 strikeouts in 135 at bats. It’s quite a small sample size, so it’s too early to tell. But there is one thing we should look at that might make you think that he’s for real. He had 6 home runs including a walk-off home run on the last day of the season against the A’s. He’s young (24), he’s a competitor, and I’m sure he’s just going to get even better.
Let’s say Ward has an amazing spring training in 2019. Could it be possible that he would be the Opening Day starter? That’s a long shot at best for two reasons. Ward doesn’t have enough experience at the moment and that would put a lot of pressure on him. More importantly, the Angels still have Zack Cozart for two more seasons. He’ll be in the second season of his 3-year-$38 million contract. Zack’s first season as an Angel couldn’t have gone any worse. He batted .219 with 5 home runs and a .658 OPS before leaving the game on June 13 because of a shoulder problem. That problem turned into season ending shoulder surgery. Yikes. Eppler will try his best to make sure that Cozart wasn’t a failed investment, but I’m sure Ward will be the backup third baseman in the meantime. My prediction is that Ward will hit around .275 while hitting 18 home runs and gathering 65 RBIs coming off the bench.
Let’s hope Ward turns into Troy Glaus! Halos fans have been waiting for that kind of production out of third for a very long time!
Featured Image: The Desert Sun