The Major League Baseball Draft is such a special time of the year. Organizations fill their farm systems with new talent fresh out of high school or college, and it's a new start for both the organizations and the players they select in a new outlet for their future careers as professional baseball players.
Day one saw 75 names announced, and two being announced as new potential members of the Los Angeles Angels. The first selection came at pick #26, and the second at #70, and the Angels shocked the baseball world with an unorthodox first pick and gave a prep player a new outlook on life with their second pick.
The Angels entered the draft with a focus on bringing in experience college bats, and their primary focus came in the middle of the field with shortstops, second basemen, center fielders and catchers. Multiple sources hinted that the Angels would take Blake Trahan, a shortstop from Louisiana-Lafayette, who still remains on the draft board after 75 picks.
With college bats like Donnie Dewees (North Florida, OF) and Scott Kingery (Arizona, 2B), college arms like Jon Harris (Missouri State, RHP), Cody Ponce (Cal Poly Pomona, RHP) and Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville, RHP), and prep players like Daz Cameron (Eagle's Landing Christian (GA), OF), Mike Nikorak (Stroudsburg (PA), RHP) and Chris Betts (Wilson (CA), C), the Angels opted for someone low on many boards.
With the 26th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, the Angels took a well known catcher in Taylor Ward. No, not the Taylor Ward writing this article, but a highly touted defensive catcher from Fresno State.
“We are very excited with this selection and this is a great pick for us,” said Angels Director of Scouting, Ric Wilson. “We’ve scouted him all year long and have gotten to know him and feel very comfortable having him join our system. He has a tremendous throwing arm and we think he’s going to be a premium big league catcher. We’ve always liked his skill level and what he can do on both sides of the ball.”
Ward's scouting report consists of defense, defense, and uhh, oh yeah, more defense. He came into the draft listed as the best defensive catcher, helped by good lateral movement behind the plate, good receiving skills and a cannon of an arm. Ward's bat trails well behind his defense but there is an upside in the power department with natural pull and quick bat speed. Ward is also an athletic catcher who has good speed for a catcher.
Some criticized for taking Ward, 21, at such a high point in the draft when he was ranked so low on many boards, but the Angels believe they made the pick they've wanted for some time. Ward played in all 59 games for the Bulldogs this season, leading them in home runs (7), RBI (42) and total bases (104), while batting .304. Ward threw out 13 of 23 (56.5%) of base runners this season, and gunned down 33 of 55 (60%) over his full collegiate career. Ward was named an All-Mountain West Conference selection in back-to-back years.
Ward had his named called in a draft previously following his senior season at Shadow Hills High School in Indio, California in 2012, when the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the 31st round. Ward did not sign and kept his commitment to Fresno State.
With the Angels second selection of the draft, they went with a prep player for the third straight year. With the 70th overall pick, Los Angeles took Jahmai Jones from Wesleyan High School in Norcross, Georgia.
Jones, 17, who will most likely opt out of his commitment to North Carolina, is a gifted athlete. His genes consist of his father Andrew Jones who was a starting linebacker for Notre Dame on the 1988 National Championship Team, as well as two brothers who played college football, one, T.J., who is a receiver for the Detroit Lions.
Jones could play both in the outfield and middle infield as a second baseman with his athleticism. His speed is above average and will help play into his future roles with the organization. Jones' swing is a natural line drive swing, and mixed with his quick hands, will allow him to place the ball across all fields. Jones has some raw power to him, that could be untapped at the moment.
Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher for Scout.com and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.