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OC Register: Taylor Ward looks to win an everyday job with Angels


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TEMPE, Ariz. >> Taylor Ward ended the 2018 season as the Angels everyday third baseman, hitting a walk-off homer to end the season.

Now, he’s trying to win a job as their everyday third baseman in 2019, and he picked up right where he left off.

Ward belted a grand slam on his first swing of the Cactus League.

“That’s a good feeling right there,” Ward said after his homer put the Angels on the way to a 10-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the Cactus League opener on Saturday.

The Angels don’t have many decisions to make with their position player roster this spring, but Ward is squarely in the middle of the most significant one.

Ward, 25, is in the running with David Fletcher and Luis Rengifo to be one of the Angels’ everyday infielders. If Ward wins the job, he’ll be the third baseman and Zack Cozart will play second. If Rengifo wins it, he’ll play second and Cozart will play third. If it’s Fletcher, they could go either way with Cozart at second and third.

Tommy La Stella is also in the mix, but more likely to stick on the team as a backup.

Ward’s advantage is that he has the most power, evident by the 14 homers hit in the minors and six more in the majors last season. Overall, he hit .349 with a .977 OPS in the minors, but it didn’t quite translate when he got to the big leagues.

Ward hit .178 in the majors over the final six weeks.

“I think I just got away from approach stuff and also a few mechanical things that I was doing in the minor leagues, drill-wise and things like that, that I didn’t necessarily stick to when I got (to the majors),” Ward said.

Ward said he spent most of his winter refining his hitting, and also working to be more lean, so he can be faster and maybe even steal more bases.

Defense remains a question for him, but he’s even shown improvement in that area.

Converted from catcher late in spring training last year, Ward is still learning the position. He made a good impression in his first game on Saturday, making a nice backhand play and also coming in to grab a short-hop and start a double play.

Manager Brad Ausmus said he could tell even by the way Ward was taking his first step on check swings that he’s improved.

“I think there’s a comfort factor,” Ausmus said. “It was brand new to him last year.”

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I think Ward has a better chance at posting a legitimately good season than most here realize. 

Pie in the sky prediction - he hits .265/.335/.450/.785 with 23 HR, 26 doubles, and 15 SB and 3.5 WAR, and is a legit ROY candidate if he’s still eligible. Cozart winds up at 2B, Fletcher is the UT IF.

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1 hour ago, totdprods said:

I think Ward has a better chance at posting a legitimately good season than most here realize. 

Pie in the sky prediction - he hits .265/.335/.450/.785 with 23 HR, 26 doubles, and 15 SB and 3.5 WAR, and is a legit ROY candidate if he’s still eligible. Cozart winds up at 2B, Fletcher is the UT IF.

He’s not

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53 minutes ago, True Grich said:

I'm fully in Ward's corner and pulling for him to win the 3B job.  He has the most upside, IMO.

I'm a big David Fletcher fan, but ultimately, I think a Ward 3B/Cozart 2B/Fletcher UT IF outcome would be best for the Angels in the short-term.

I'm not too confident in La Stella and want to see Rengifo carry 2018's momentum before I hope for anything differently.

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14 hours ago, totdprods said:

I think Ward has a better chance at posting a legitimately good season than most here realize. 

Pie in the sky prediction - he hits .265/.335/.450/.785 with 23 HR, 26 doubles, and 15 SB and 3.5 WAR, and is a legit ROY candidate if he’s still eligible. Cozart winds up at 2B, Fletcher is the UT IF.

Those are definitely pie in the sky projections. 

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