Taylor Blake Ward is a great follow on social media. He knows the Angels farm system better than anyone else out there. His work is linked here often by Stirrups and referenced in countless comments.
He was nice enough to take some time this week to talk about his love of minor league baseball and discuss some Angels prospects. Hopefully this is the first of an ongoing series here with Taylor as he is as personable as he is knowledgeable.
Here’s the transcript of that call:
Taylor, thanks for the time, what got you in to covering prospects?
“It started with hockey, actually. We have a minor league hockey team in my local area and I got real into them.
I’ve had a passion for minor league baseball. I actually liked minor league baseball more than Major League baseball for a while. But I didn’t follow it the way that a lot of people do now.
And with this minor league hockey team I have a buddy who was an account rep and he said ‘hey, why don’t you go to this job fair and try to get a job with us?’ And I ended up getting an internship with a minor league baseball team, the High Desert Mavericks, which aren’t around any more.
But I was an intern with them in sales and after my first day they came to me and said ‘hey, we need a new director of PR and media relations in broadcasting’ and I asked ‘what in the world does that mean?’ and I did a year of broadcasting and that’s really what took off.
And then I got asked to cover the Angels. I got a job covering the Angels and I kind of incorporated the minor league side and it just kind of took off.”
Cool story. How many minor league games do you go to each year?
“I used to probably do 40 or 50. Now I’m probably right around, minor league side about 20 games but I also do about 20 college or high school games a year. I do a lot of draft stuff so I see the local talent. I try to see everyone at least twice if not three times.
On the minor league side I’d say I’m up above 20, 25 games a year but it used to be a lot more. It used to be twice as much.”
I grew up 20 miles outside of Bakersfield and we had the Bakersfield Dodgers.
There’s just a different feel with minor league ball. I love the family feel. It just feels so Americana, so small town. It reminds me of childhood.
“Its very much like childhood. You go to the ballpark, you pay for your ticket, you have popcorn, a beer or a soda and it feels like what you’d imagine baseball was like in the olden days.
You know, in the 50s or the 40s you’d go to the ballpark on any given day and you’re excited for 9 innings and what you’re going to see ahead.”
Yeah, and everybody puts on their little GM hat for the day and it feels cool. Another reason I love Spring Training, watching the prospects. Which is your wheelhouse.
As far as Angels prospects go, Brandon Marsh has been killing it lately. Has he made a couple of changes to his swing?
“Yes. That started in Spring Training trying to be a little more upright, trying to get underneath the ball a little bit more and that will help him produce a little more power.
Its in a sense a little of the launch angle conversation, but kind of swinging with more intent and getting the ball in the air a little bit more. So if you want to call it launch angle revolution you can, but its not necessarily that its just a change to get him behind the ball a little bit more. Behind the ball and under the ball a little bit more.”
And Jahmai Jones is a guy I’ve interviewed several times who I absolutely love but he’s really struggling for the second year in a row. Is it still position change or is that excuse starting to sail away?
“I think position change was an excuse that wasn’t necessarily needed. They changed his swing multiple times last year. I think 3 or 4 times they tried to change his swing around and it sounds like they’ve done it again.
He’s always been a cold starter. Its pretty much known that he starts off cold and picks up well.
I don’t think the position change is drastic to the offensive development. Obviously its in the back of your mind a little bit but when you’re developing these guys you have multiple focuses so I don’t know if I’d call it position change.
I’d call it finding himself, finding what the Angels want him to be, and tapping into that. And its not easy to do, especially when you’re trying so many different things. But I still believe there’s something left there just that the performance is obviously not there. Its been a very weak start for him.
He crushed it in the AFL. So I wonder if he clicked on something between the season and the AFL or if maybe he just went out there and played his game without thinking as much in the batter’s box.
“I think the AFL was a full season under his belt, getting that feel for baseball. And also the swing he had and the game he had in Arizona was really good. I don’t think he’s in that swing currently and I think that may be a problem because obviously what he did in Arizona, he looked really good in the AFL
He looked like what he looked like when he came into single A ball and high A ball which is a very athletic swing. And I think the things that he’s working on now to add more power and not be such high contact, I think he’s changed his approach which is why you see the walk percentage rise so much, but I think just that what we saw in the AFL is a results that the results aren’t drastic and you’re out to win games.
I think getting him back to that would be nice.”
Patrick Sandoval is getting a lot of mention as a guy putting up good numbers and moving up the ranks. Do you think and ETA of 2020 is optimistic or about in line?
“I think that is in line. What he’s done performance wise its exciting because you see these outrageous numbers. Its exciting when you see what he did last year and what he’s done this year and it excites a lot of fans.
But its still not a high ceiling arm. Its an advanced arm and one that is going to do well in the minors and having him face Triple A hitters, some of those guys are long time baseball players, lots of veterans, many of them have had some form of short term success in the majors, some are making their way into the majors. I think that is going to be a real challenge, not a challenge but a nice test, for him to see where he is baseball wise.
And I think he is a Major Leaguer. I think he has some things to refine. I think command is a little bit of that. He has good control.
The numbers are a little bit different this year. They’re trying to get him a little bit more velocity, but outside of that I think he’s done a great job of putting his name on the map with performance and now we’re seeing with these tool...
You know, in high school, he was kind of a toolsy pitcher with decent stuff and now we’re seeing a lot of that translate and we’re seeing the pitcher that I think a lot of people expected.
Still a back end arm type. I think maybe this season is possible, but 2020 is a realistic scenario where I think he’s going to be one of those guys that rides the train from Salt Lake to Anaheim regularly.”
The chat continued and I’ll get the rest up shortly. Please leave comments and questions below. Taylor will likely be a 2-3 time per year guest, so let me know what you’d like me to ask him and I’ll try to fit it into the next chat.