ANAHEIM -- The Angels' rebuilt farm system is finally starting to bear fruit, as evidenced by the ascendance of third baseman Taylor Ward and right-hander Griffin Canning, who have been recognized by MLB Pipeline as the club's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year, respectively.
Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
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Ward, a first-round pick of the Angels in 2015, was originally drafted as a catcher, but he transitioned to third base this year, a move that helped him unlock his offensive potential and accelerate his path to the Majors. The 24-year-old right-handed hitter enjoyed a breakout season in the Minors, batting .349 with a .977 OPS, 14 home runs and 60 RBIs over 102 games between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake.
Ward was rewarded with his first MLB callup on Aug. 14 and spent the rest of the season as the Angels' starting third baseman. While he batted only .178 with a .578 OPS over 40 games in his first extended look in the Majors, he crushed three of his six home runs in the final week of September, including a walk-off blast in the club's regular-season finale.
The Angels are hoping that Ward will be able to take on a larger role with the club next season, as he is expected to receive a chance to compete for a starting infield job during Spring Training.
"There's a lot of mechanical things that I'm still going to work on to tweak and get better at," Ward said. "And of course, third base, I'll be working extremely hard, like I have been all year, to take hits away over there. I want to be really good over there, just like how I was defensively at catching. I have a lot of work to do. We'll get started here soon at that."
Canning, 22, has emerged as the Angels' top pitching prospect after shooting from Class A Advanced Inland Empire to Triple-A Salt Lake in his first professional season. A second-round Draft pick out of UCLA in 2017, Canning did not pitch in the Angels' organization last year because of concerns about his workload in college, but he quickly impressed after making his pro debut in April, logging a 3.65 ERA over 113 1/3 innings across three Minor League levels. While at Double-A Mobile, Canning was the starting pitcher in two combined no-hitters.
A polished arm with an advanced feel for pitching, Canning mixes a low-90s fastball with an above-average changeup, a curveball and a slider. Canning, who is ranked the Angels' No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is now on the cusp of the Majors and could be ready to contribute to the rotation at some point next year.