Following a stellar performance during spring training that saw Taylor Ward break out offensively with a .400 batting average, 3 HR, 7 RBI and 5 walks in only 25 at-bats, he was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake/Alternative Site to start the 2021 regular season. Due to injuries, the release of Albert Pujols and a much needed shot of adrenaline in the starting lineup, Ward was recalled to the Halos on May 5 on a full-time basis. It took the 28-year-old three games to record his first hit of the season, but it came in a clutch spot against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 7 during a four-run second inning that saw the Angels take the lead for good and go on to win the first game of a three-game series by the final of 9-2.
Taylor Ward hits a Solo Home Run for his 1st HR of the season— Angels News (@AngelsNews1727) May 8, 2021
Angels lead 2-1 pic.twitter.com/WGelAmU0EI
The former Fresno State Bulldog recorded 4 HR and 14 RBI during the month of May, but it only equated to a .215 average, .292 on-base percentage and a .405 slugging percentage. It wasn’t until the middle of June where Ward saw a consistent approach at the plate where results came to fruition. Between June 11-19, Ward connected on a nine-game hitting streak, where the righty went 13-for-36 (.361 Avg.), boosting his overall batting average from .218 to .255. The pinnacle moment during this streak was in the seventh inning on June 17 against the Detroit Tigers where Ward broke open the scoring with a grand slam, electrifying a full capacity crowd at Angel Stadium for the first time since the Covid pandemic began.
In front of the first full capacity Angel Stadium crowd since the 2019 season, Taylor Ward blasted a grand slam to break this game wide open.— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) June 18, 2021
Angel Stadium erupted after this one. pic.twitter.com/yYTjhSBKHU
With an offensive split of .258/.359/.461 to cap off the month of June, Ward continued to be a mainstay in the middle of the Angels lineup as Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and other key players were M.I.A. Prior to being assigned back to Triple-A Salt Lake on July 22, Ward scuffled with his run creation ability with just one home and three runs batted in for a total of 13 games. Unfortunately, after six games back with the Bees (10-for-23, 2 HR and 5 RBI) Ward would get shelved on the 7-Day Injured List with a non-displaced left rib fracture that would keep the utility man out of action until September 16 when he began a rehab assignment in Arizona.
Taylor Ward with a leadoff HR for the Salt Lake Bees pic.twitter.com/5Wziqyw9Fa— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) July 28, 2021
Once the battle subsided and a full week of conditioning at the Triple-A level finished, Ward rejoined the Halos lineup during the final road trip of the season against the Texas Rangers. After a 2-for-3 performance on September 29, Ward followed up in his first at-bat the following day with a two-RBI double in the first inning. This plate appearance would be the last of 2021 for Ward as he exited the game after scoring on a Luis Rengifo single. At the time the reason was unknown, but after the game it was revealed he suffered a Right adductor strain that would place him on the 10-Day Injured List.
Ward primarily played right field due in part to Dexter Fowler being lost for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. During the 368.1 defensive innings played, Ward collected a .989 Fielding Percentage with one error and two assists. He also had opportunities in left (85 inn.) and center (65.1 inn.) that saw a combined 37 chances at playing the ball and surrendering just one error.
65 Games* / 208 AB* / .250 Avg. / .332 OBP / .438 SLG* / .770 OPS* / 52 H* / 8 HR* / 33 RBI* / 33 R* / 15 2B* / 20 BB* / 1 SB / 0.6 WAR*
BEST OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
Ward has never been a player to display tremendous pop in his bat, but in the midst of a career season offensively, he showed spurts of gap to gap power for doubles and home runs just like Mike Trout and Jared Walsh. As the Angels wrapped up a 10-game homestand on May 26 against the Texas Rangers, the same homestand where earlier Trout left the game against the Cleveland Indians with a season-ending calf injury, Ward decided to put the team on his back and take over the run scoring duties.
With a 2-0 lead already in the first, Ward added to the ledger with a three-run home run of his own (4th of the season) off Rangers starter Dane Dunning. Up 5-0, the Angels extended their lead to 9-1 with a four-run fifth inning, capped off by a Ward two-run single. Ward’s 3-for-4 with 5 RBI day at the plate was the first of two three-hit games in 2021, and the most runs batted in for a single game in his career.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022
Ward could be in for another career season in 2022 based on the versatility he brings to the Angels roster. As of right now he would be listed as the fifth option for the outfield, but he could easily rise up the depth chart if the Halos pull the trigger on a trade for an ace starting pitcher that would probably include Brandon Marsh or Jo Adell in the package. Joe Maddon has already been quoted to like Ward’s style of play and how he balances the lineup when healthy. If you want to think outside of the box, Ward was drafted as a catcher and played two innings behind the plate in 2021. With Max Stassi the only catcher currently on the roster, Ward has the opportunity to contend for the backup role in spring training if general manager Perry Minasian does not look to acquire a veteran catcher, like Kurt Suzuki a year ago. Ward is under club control for 2022 before he hits his arbitration candidacy from 2023-2025, which gives the Angels options in how they want to go about adding him to the fold.