Ward, the 2015 first rounder, entered the 2016 season as the Angels #1 prospect according to MLB.com. Last season, in 201 post-draft AB’s, Ward hit .348 with a .438 OBP, highlighted by a very patient approach at the plate (39 BB to only 23 SO) while catching 420 ⅔ innings.
Ward has a very quiet setup with a short load and really looks to shoot the ball back up the middle and to right-center field. His barrel stays level through the zone, but he tends to get slightly rotational and will open the front side early in order to get his hands through on balls middle-in. He does a good job handling balls middle-away, and has the strength to drive balls to the right-center gap, however when pitchers are able to pitch him in, he sees the ball run up the handle a bit and struggles to get the barrel out front in time.
His 2016 numbers have fallen off a bit. He has a respectable BB:SO ratio of 25:50, but his average is down to .245 without much damage (only seven doubles and two HRs across 298 ABs). He has been better so far in the second half with a .318 average and 8:9 BB:SO ratio, but the lack of damage remains, as only three of his 21 second-half hits have gone for extra bases. He is playing at a higher level than 2015, and surely with a #1 prospect ranking hanging around his neck, teams have done a little more homework on him. So if he can maintain the second-half turnaround, it will speak a great deal to his ability to adjust to the next level. He is a strong, athletic kid who still has some strength projection in the frame, so he could find some gap power going forward.
Defensively, Ward has a bit of a narrow base and gives a high target, but stays relatively quiet with his hands and is quick to his knees. His arm wasn’t tested in this look, but based on his throws in pregame infield/outfield, it looks like he has average arm strength with some accuracy. He is in an organization that prioritizes pitch framing and defense at the position, so he will need to show an aptitude for those aspects in order to stay in the Angels’ future plans at catcher. That said, in a short look it seems like Ward has the tools to be a solid defensive catcher who may end up making enough contact to eventually work himself into a contributor at the big league level. Stay tuned for a full report in the coming weeks as I get a chance to see him play a little more.