Yep, “Speedy Catcher.” Those words are not supposedly to go together except when followed by “and he’s moving to the outfield.” The Rays found a player with some nice speed who they at least drafted as a catcher in Taylor Ward.
Ward, a 6’1″, 175 catcher out of Shadow Hills High School in California, looks a lot more like a centerfielder than a catcher with his physical profile. It’s very interesting that he has played his high school career as a catcher. It seems completely ridiculous, but if he could stick there it could help his overall value.
Ward does have the arm strength the catcher position entails, although his accuracy is inconsistent and he just seems fidgety behind the plate. It’s not a natural position for him. Ward has also seen time in the outfield and that seems like a better fit for him. But nevertheless, the Rays drafted him as a catcher for what it’s worth. Why would they do that? My first thought is that they want a basestealing catcher to complete their team rushing attack. Anyone have a better reason? Well, one possible one is that Ward is a tweener. He has above-average speed and uses it well on the basepaths, but he may not be able to handle centerfield. With his arm, he seems like a perfect fit for right field. But he doesn’t have enough power to handle a corner spot. Ward features a compact swing that takes a short path the ball and he sprays line drives to all fields. He has an efficient swing, not really great pure bat speed. He does have some power potential, but it doesn’t appear to be so significant.
Ward is an interesting prospect given that the Rays considered a catcher despite his physical profile and speed, and he does have solid upside as a hitter. Ward is committed to Fresno State and we’ll have to see if the Rays can sign him. Hopefully they do because then we’ll get to find out whether the Rays really consider Ward a catcher despite his speed.