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Drew Ward, 1B
High School: Leedey HS (OK)
Draft Day Age: 18.5
College Commit: Oklahoma
Ward has been hyped as a potential high first round pick since his high school freshman year, but much of that was due to his advanced age. His athleticism developed early and he was judged against players over a year younger than him at an age where a year is a huge difference. Ward is slightly older than the average prospect in this class, but he would've been one of the oldest players had he stayed in the 2014 draft class. He may have made some noise early in his high school career and he has early round tools, but he isn't the Bryce Harper-type impact prospect that some publications hyped him to be.
Scouts will have to work from behind on their evaluations as it was uncertain which draft class Ward would be in until recently, even though rumors have been circulating for months. All summer and fall, scouts had plenty on their plates bearing down on 2013 draft prospects and while they're familiar with Ward, they haven't done full evaluations. With some indication his move would be approved, Ward has been working around poor weather in the Midwest and staging private workouts for MLB clubs in Houston and Oklahoma City recently. Oklahoma is loaded with prospects this year, but Ward faces poor competition in his small hometown and is well west of where the high-level prospects are based.
Ward's performance in the WWBA Championships last October, where he hit with a wood bat against top prep pitching, was on par with his top three round 2013 draft peers, going 4-for-11 with three doubles, two walks and two steals. I saw him in Jupiter this past October and took video of one at bat that I've embedded below.
I graded Ward's tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is Major League average and 55/60 means 55 current and 60 future grades. The current hit tool grade is a peer grade (judged against in-game hitting performance of top three round prep hitters in the 2013 draft class, in Ward's case)
OFFENSE: Hit: 50/50, Power: 55/60
Ward has a long-limbed, projectable frame and above average bat speed and raw power potential in a loose left-handed swing. He shows some feel to go the other way and can access his power in games. Ward has an upright start with a longer stride into a wide base that reminds me of National's 1B Adam LaRoche's swing and their hitting tools aren't entirely different. This stride and an occasional late hand pump could give Ward some trouble with advanced breaking stuff and elite velocity. Likewise, his low-loaded hands and high finish along with a slight lean back in his torso at contact give him a flyball-oriented slight uppercut that will need some tweaking. His natural feel for hitting and superior tools let him hit high school pitching now, but these mechanical issues will need some attention in pro ball.
DEFENSE: Speed: 40/35, Defense (1B): 50/55, Arm: 50/50
Ward is already a below average runner and has a slow first step. He never had a chance to play shortstop (his current position) and he's already fringy at third base. His hands and average arm are good enough to stick at the position and his footwork isn't bad, but his quickness holds him back and he'll only get bigger as he fills out his frame. Right field could be an option, but Ward probably settles in a first base, where he has the tools to be above average defensively. He'll likely get a chance to play third base for a few years in the minors if he passes on a scholarship to Oklahoma and turns pro, but he should move to the right side in the near future.
Ward is a second to third round prospect right now given the uncertainty in his projection, with the tools to work his way into the late first round. Ward can improve his status with some offensive progress and/or physical development. I compared his swing to Adam LaRoche and that isn't a bad comparison for his overall potential. If a team feels like that upside is very likely, they could put a first round grade on Ward, but he isn't likely to face much high end game competition between now and draft day, so they better have done their homework already.