Taylor Ward as a fantasy baseball sleeper feels like one of those: By March, everyone is going to write at least one sleeper post for Taylor Ward and some people will write two so he will be a sleeper in name only. That’s fine, they can’t all be “Drafted around 300th overall” sleepers. I’ve been wrong about things like this before. Not wrong on whether a guy will be good or not, I’m never wrong about that. Shut up about Adalberto Mondesi! Literally no one is asking you for a list of names I was wrong about. Yes, I thought Jonathan India was a star, and it turned out I was just reading a Star of India takeout menu. Can you please stop listing all of my many mistakes now? Thanks. I mean, I’ve been wrong in the past about whether a player will be hyped as a sleeper, then they’re not. It’s harder to understand what others are thinking than what players will do. All of the stats, that I will get to in a second, show Taylor Ward will be undervalued, but will everyone else see that? My guess is yes, but who knows? Thought it was obvious to not draft starters in the first 15 picks overall, and I’ve been wrong about people catching on with that for about a decade. Last year, Taylor Ward went 73/23/65/.281/5 in 495 ABs. That’s *holds hand over mouth while yawning*, right? No? Ah, you’re one step ahead of me, let me catch up. So, what can we expect from Taylor Ward for 2023 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Psyche! Before we get into the Taylor Ward sleeper post, just wanted to announce that I’ve begun to roll out my 2023 fantasy baseball rankings on our Patreon. It’s an early Hanukkah miracle! Or late Hanukah miracle, depending on when Hanukkah is this year. The Jews should really decide on one day to start Hanukah each year, and stick with it. It’s better for branding. Anyway II, the Taylor Ward sleeper:
This is neither here nor there, but what were the Angels doing with Taylor Ward in the minors for seven years? Before diving in, I was looking at his professional career, and, in 2019, Ward went 27/11/.306 in Triple-A. There was a case to be made that Ward was ready in 2018. Welp, whatever. Angels suck, water’s wet, and wet farts from Taco Bell burn. Yadda squared, we know that story. Taylor Ward is up now, and should be locked into the cleanup role behind Luis Rengifo, Shohei Ohtani, and Mike Trout, assuming health. Stop giggling, Trout’s healthy. Uh, now, at least. So, that’s better ribbies than Tony Roma’s for Taylor Ward. With Rendon, Renfroe and Walsh behind him, it might not hurt his runs either, but obviously those are more tenuous. Then again, if Ward hits as I expect he will or Trout gets hurt (hey, it happens), Ward could move up in the order. In general, we’re looking at 70-ish runs, 90+ RBIs. It’s good.
What else is good is Taylor Ward’s eye. Last year, he swung at the 11th fewest balls outside the strike zone at 23.6%. That, in itself, isn’t one ticket to paradise with Eddie Money holding the 2nd ticket. Ed Money would prolly tell you you have to swing at balls in the strike zone to be effective. See, rocket surgeon, if you don’t swing at anything, then you’re not swinging outside of the zone or in it. That’s not great either. That’s your standard, too selective, like Trent Grisham. He doesn’t swing at anything and strikes out nearly 29% of the time. Ward only Ks 21.3% and walks 10.6%. He’s neutrally a .280 hitter. That, again, is good.
What about his power? Well, I’m glad you asked, Mr. Clunky Expositional Question. If he were healthy last year, he would’ve hit 27 homers. That plays on its own. That’s the baseline though. He has a 15.8 Launch Angle, and hit 43.2% fly balls. That reads homers. Even if the HR/FB% stays around 14, which I imagine it does, it gets him near 30 homers. He had the 16th lowest soft contact, sitting between Mookie Betts and Austin Riley. It’s hard to find a bad name on the lowest soft contact list. There might be some who think Taylor Ward is basically predicated on his April/May (10 HRs combined, .392 and .314 respectively), and then again in September (6 HRs, .345). That’s fine, but I’d counter that those were the months when he was actually healthy. Crashing into a wall, and it irritated a nerve in his shoulder at the end of May. That bottomed out his middle months of the season. This is a narrative that you have to trust fall a little into Ward’s arms, but it makes sense. Shoulder hurts and his hitting suffers. Shoulder feels good and he looks like a 35/5/.280 hitter. Sign me up! For 2023, I’ll give Taylor Ward projections of 73/31/97/.282/6 in 541 ABs with a chance for more.