No. 8: Drew Ward, 3B – Class A Hagerstown
The Nationals drafted Drew Ward out of high school in the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and signed him with an $850k signing bonus shortly thereafter.
Ward was considered by Baseball America to be the 87th-best prospect entering the draft, but his potential was hard to measure since he had only recently decided to graduate from high school a year early and thus qualify for the 2013 draft. But Washington liked what it saw in the big third baseman from Oklahoma High School and selected him in the third round – a decision that has already started to pay off for the Nationals.
Upon joining the Nationals in 2013, Ward hit .292 with 28 RBIs in 49 games with the team’s Gulf Coast league affiliate. After an impressive – albeit, brief – showing in his first professional season, Ward was promoted to Class-A Hagerstown in 2014, where he batted .269 with 10 home runs and 73 RBIs in 115 games.
Ward’s impressive power numbers in his first two seasons are exactly what the Nationals expected to see from the third baseman when they drafted him, and at just 20 years old, he appears to be on the fast track to becoming a big league power hitter.
While Ward is still likely a few years away from joining the big league club, the only real question mark surrounding the 20-year-old is his defense.
Ward’s size allows him to hit the ball out of the ballpark with ease, but it also limits his range. A former shortstop, Ward’s poor range has already forced him to move to third base. And despite his strong arm, his poor athleticism could eventually force him to move across the diamond to first base.
Despite his defensive weaknesses, Ward’s power potential is a valuable asset in a game where true sluggers are becoming more and more rare. If Ward continues to develop into a legitimate power hitter, his pop at the plate will likely make up for any defensive flaws he might have.
He’s only 20 years old, but he’s already made his presence known in the Nationals organization and he could join the big league club as early as 2017.