December 9, 2019

Washington Nationals Minor League and Prospect Report for Week of July 6th

As another week of minor league baseball is in the books, here are some players in the Washington Nationals’ farm system that are making headlines and All-Star Games. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prospects: No. 4 Drew Ward

In this series, District Sports Page has provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here. We will now move into even further detailed reports for our Top 10.

Here’s our scouting reports on prospects Nos. 21-15, prospects Nos. 16-20 and Nos. 11-16.

And so far in the Top 10:

No. 10 Eury Perez
No. 9 Jake Johansen
No. 8 Sammy Solis
No. 7 Michael Taylor
No. 6 Zach Walters
No. 5 Steven Souza

Now without further ado, here is prospect No. 4, third baseman Drew Ward.

4. Drew Ward
Bats: Left, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 210 lb.
Born: November 25, 1994 in Leedey, Oklahoma, US (Age 19)
Draft: Third Round, 2013

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Base Running Fielding Range Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall Future Potential
40/60 50/60 35/50 60/65 35/35 35/45 40/55 40/50 60/65 50/60 All-Star

Drew Ward, the Nationals third-round selection last June and the first position player they draft, has the most upside the system has seen since Bryce Harper.

Despite his immense potential, Ward has largely flown under the radar and a lot of teams were relatively cool on him. That’s probably because he hails from a tiny town in rural Oklahoma, with a smaller total population than some high school attendance sheets. Outside of the showcase circuit and pre-draft tryouts, many teams didn’t have the comfort-level with him to risk big slot money.

Ward though, is a star-level prospect. He didn’t face much quality pitching while playing for his class-B Leedey high school Bison, but his numbers are hard to downplay. He hit a Herculean .556/.765/.1.190 with nine home runs and only eight strikeouts to 56 walks. He played baseball year-round and is much more polished both in the field and in the box than post-draft media reports have given him credit for. He came into his own in the national spotlight, stealing the show in the 2011 and 2012 Perfect Game National Showcases. He laced a double off of fireballer Clint Hollon‘s fastball and clocked one of the strongest arms at the 2011 event. The next year he put on a show in batting practice, lacing balls to the fence like a machine.

The Nationals have a strong scouting foothold out west, with Kris Kline, Jim Gonzalez and Ed Longosz bird-dogging some of their best talent out there. As a result, they were chasing Ward early and already had detailed reports on him when he became draft eligible. Many other teams were sleeping on him.

After taking him with the 105th overall pick and inking him to a $850k bonus, the Nationals sent Ward down to Viera, Florida to play with their Gulf Coast League affiliate. The second-youngest position player on their roster, Ward hit a strong .292/.402/.387 and looked sharp at third base, making only four errors in 80 chances in his first extended time at the position after playing shortstop in high school.

Tall and well-built, Ward resembles a young Eric Chavez when he was coming out of his Mt. Carmel high school almost twenty years ago. He’s not quite the same athlete, but he’s a more patient hitter than Chavez ever was and has similarly impressive arm strength and left-handed power potential. In the box, Ward’s great hands and fluidity stick out. He has an outstanding feel for hitting, using the opposite field on soft stuff and when he’s at a disadvantage, and shows plus pull power when he gets his pitch. Ward uses his strong core and shoulders to whip the bat head, keeping his hands in and leading the barrel to the baseball. He lines the ball like a machine already, and has the body to grow into 20+ home run loft power with more coaching.

Facing lower-quality arms throughout his baseball career, Ward has been under-challenged for years and has developed multiple mechanisms to slow down his swing as a result. Now that the pitching quality he’s facing has jumped up, he’ll have to scrap those bad habits to reach his potential as a complete hitter, with plus power and plate discipline. He has the undeniable hitting skills and batting eye to get there though. His left-handed power could make him an Eric Chavez-like run producer.

In the field, Ward’s size and thick lower half slow him down, drawing doubts from some scouts that he’ll stick at third base. But many of the same scouts also doubted Nolan Arenado — the 2013 NL Gold Glove winner at third base as a rookie. And Ward has better defensive tools than Arenado ever did. He has a premium arm, and makes very accurate throws with good carry across the diamond. He displays nice balance, moving low and playing the ball with huge, soft hands. His ability to keep a low center of gravity and light feed as he fills out will determine whether or not he’ll be an above-average third baseman.

Washington Nationals Top 25 Prospects Overview

For the Washington Nationals, the flip-side of  a decade-long losing streak is their extraordinarily talented, affordable roster. Their poor records came at the perfect time, just as baseball scouting was expanding and implementing new analytics methods to assess performance, and the big league draft was still unfettered by a hard-slotting system. As a result, their savvy front office accumulated a bevy of high draft picks and used them to rake in a gluttonous share of the baseball’s best athletes.

The Nationals were able to heist the franchise talents of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Lucas Giolito, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, along with a bounty of other blue-chip prospects. The injection of young, affordable star-power led them to put together the franchise’s best stretch over the past three years, and they managed to snap a 31-year playoff drought in 2012.

Despite a step back in Major League production in 2013, the Nationals are still looking stronger than ever heading into the 2014 season. Healthy and more polished versions of Strasburg and Harper lead a stacked 25-man roster that is looking almost unbeatable following the addition of Doug Fister and the maturation of Anthony Rendon.

The franchise’s farm system isn’t what it was a couple of years ago. Naturally, promoting so many stud prospects to the Major Leagues and competing with homegrown talent comes with a price. Over the past few seasons, the club’s farm system has graduated starting pitchers Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, gifted relievers like Storen,  Stammen and Ian Krol (now with the Tigers), as well as a long list of position players that includes Harper, Zimmerman, Rendon, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Derek Norris (with the Athletics). Two thirds of their projected opening day roster is comprised of homegrown players, or former prospects that spent their final seasons in the Nationals farm system.

Additionally, the cost of winning has dropped the club’s annual draft slot to the back of the line, and has forced the front office to play for the short term. They’ve traded away blue-chip prospects like Alex Meyer, Derek Norris and Robert Ray for short-run contributions, and have also parted ways with sure-fire contributors like Nate Karns, Tommy Milone, David Freitas and Steve Lombardozzi.

So, the Nationals don’t have the prospect starpower they normally do. A couple of years ago, they had the best system in the minors. Now, though they’re still strong, they’ve faded to the middle of the pack.

The Nationals savvy amateur scouting, particularly out West, has helped Mike Rizzo maintain a competitive farm system in spite of the organizations determination to put a winning roster on the field annually.

The farm system lacks balance. It doesn’t have a stand-out prospect at the upper levels at the moment, and the losses of Nate Karns, Alex Meyer and Robbie Ray have depleted a lot of their pitching depth.  Their lack of left-handedness was also exacerbated by the Doug Fister trade, which sent the extremely underrated Robbie Ray to Detroit along with Ian Krol–who’s poised to be an elite-level left-handed setup man. To get a southpaw in the bullpen finally — a void that killed their bullpen effectiveness last year as opposing managers were able to stack their lineups with lefty sluggers — the front office had to deal Billy Burns to Oakland for Jerry Blevins. While Burns isn’t a star, the little speedster looks like a superb fourth outfielder and pinch runner.

On the bright side, the lower levels of the system do sport many of the game’s most gifted athletes. 2013 first-round pick Lucas Giolito, now recovered from Tommy John surgery, is an elite-level arm when healthy, and has the stuff, intangibles and command to be an ace in a few years. Brian Goodwin, Harrisburg’s center fielder in 2013, has gotten stuck in double-A over the past two years after rising quickly through single-A ball. Though Goodwin’s five-tool profile pretty much makes him a sure bet to be a valuable player in the MLB.

The Nats didn’t have a first-round pick last June, but still made the most of their resources by grabbing a pair of high-ceiling stars from cowboy country. Former Dallas Baptist right-hander Jake Johansen largely flew under the radar in college, but his mid 90’s fastball and NFL tight end frame bless him with intriguing upside. And farmboy Drew Ward, taken in the third round last year, profiles as a left-handed version of Nolan Arenado.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll post detailed scouting reports on the players that made District Sports Page’s list of Top 25 Prospects in the Nationals organization. Below, though, are the names of the Nats’ top prospects to watch this season.

Top 25 Prospects

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP

13. Blake Treinen, RHP

2. Brian Goodwin, OF

14. Austin Voth, RHP

Robert Ray, LHP

15. Jefry Rodriguez, RHP

3. AJ Cole, RHP

16. Tony Renda, 2B

Nate Karns, RHP

17. Felipe Rivero, LHP

4. Drew Ward, 3B

18. Christian Garcia, RHP

5. Steven Souza, OF

19. Sandy Leon, C

6. Zach Walters, SS

20. Drew Vettleson, OF

7. Michael Taylor, OF

Adrian Nieto, C, 

8. Sammy Solis, LHP

21. Cody Gunter, 3B

9. Jake Johansen, RHP

22. Nick Pivetta, RHP

10. Eury Perez, OF

23. Rafael Bautista, OF

11. Matt Skole, 3B

24. Brett Mooneyham, LHP

12. Matt Purke, LHP

25. Pedro Severino, C

Billy Burns, OF 

Honorable Mention: Dixon Anderson, Aaron Barrett, Cutter Dykstra, Randy Encarnacion, David Napoli, Travis Ott, Raudy Read, Danny Rosenbaum, Hector Silvestre, Maximo Valerio

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Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s a web application developer by day and an aspiring sports journalist living in the D.C. area. He has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has past experience working within Minor League Baseball and for Team USA. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in scouting prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. A life-long ballplayer himself, he enjoys hitting home runs with his writing and scouting reports. You can follow him on Twitter @BBNewsHound and @Ryan_S_Kelley.

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