September 23, 2017

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.

About Ryan Kelley

Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s an economist by day and an aspiring journalist living in the D.C. area. Native to Connecticut, he has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has covered Minor League Baseball and Team USA. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @BBNewsHound.

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