Angels, first-round pick Ward strike deal
ANAHEIM -- Angels first-round pick Taylor Ward sported a long-sleeve shirt, a tie and an Angels cap during batting practice at Angel Stadium on Friday afternoon, soaking in the big league atmosphere and calling the Angels "my No. 1 team."
Ward liked them so much, he signed within five days of getting selected 26th overall in the 2015 Draft -- with a discount.
The former Fresno State catcher received a signing bonus of $1.67 million, more than $300,000 less than the recommended slot value of $2,034,500. The Angels will use their excess to sign the high-school players that could command more than slot value, like center fielder Jahmai Jones, left fielder Jimmy Barnes, catcher Dalton Blumenfeld and right-hander Sam Pastrone.
The Angels have also signed right fielder Brendon Sanger (their fourth-round pick), second baseman Hutton Moyer (seventh), catcher Tanner Lubach (ninth), right-hander Adam Hofacket (10th), left fielder Jeff Boehm (13th), first baseman Nick Lynch (30th) and catcher Izaak Silva (31st).
"I'm so glad the Angels selected me," Ward said. "I'm just ready to go."
Ward met with the team in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday, while visiting family, and held a press conference on Friday. He'll take batting practice on the field Saturday -- "Hopefully I don't get too nervous," Ward said -- and report to the Angels' rookie-level affiliate in Orem, Utah, on Sunday.
Ward, 21, batted .304/.413/.486 with seven homers and 42 RBIs while throwing out 56.6 percent of would-be basestealers (13 of 23) and starting all 59 games in his junior year. For his three-year career at Fresno State, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter batted .288 with 16 homers and 98 RBIs in 162 games, while throwing out 60 percent of would-be basestealers.
Ward is the seventh catcher the Angels have taken in the first round, joining Hank Conger (25th overall in 2006), Jeff Mathis (33rd, '01), John Orton (25th, 1987), Erik Pappas (sixth, '84), Danny Godwin (first, '75) and Mike Nunn (ninth, '67).
Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said Monday that he projected Ward to be ready by 2018 and believes he can be "a .250, .255 hitter, maybe 12- to 15-homer type."
"He's got good size to him, he's durable, he's a got a well-above-average arm," Wilson said. "He can really, really throw. When it's all said and done, he's going to be a premium defender; he's going to be able to shut down the running game. He controls the staff, and he's got some strength in his swing and controls the strike zone."