Position: Starting Pitcher
During the 2005 draft, the Cincinnati Reds made Zach Ward the 92nd selection overall, taking the right-handed starting pitcher out of Gardner-Webb University in the third round. One of the better pitching prospects in the Reds' farm system, the Twins acquired Ward in exchange for right-handed pitcher Kyle Lohse midway through the 2006 season. Ward jumped right into the mix at Beloit, and could become one of the better pitching prospects in the Twins organization.
During his last season at Gardner-Webb, Ward posted a 7-9 record, finishing up the year with a 3.63 earned run average. A native of Kannapolis, N.C., Ward struck out 127 batters in over 109 innings for the Bulldogs in 2005, and quickly earned himself a reputation in the Reds system after signing.
Prior to even making his professional debut, Ward was rated as one of the top-10 prospects in the Reds organization, and most believe the 2006 season was an overall success.
Ward began the 2006 season as a member of Dayton of the Midwest League, and established himself as one of the better pitchers in the league. He posted a 7-0 record for the Reds low-A affiliate, and had a sparkling 2.29 earned run average in his 20 appearances. He made 18 starts, appearing in 114 innings overall, and held the opposition to a .188 batting average.
The transition to the Twins was not as easy for Ward, as he struggled after putting on the Beloit Snappers uniform. Though he was playing in the same league, Ward was roughed up to the tune of a 5.93 earned run average in his six starts for the Snappers, though he still capped his year off with an 8-4 record.
Ward will be a big part of the Fort Myers Miracle rotation in 2007, and hopefully he has settled in to being in the Minnesota organization.
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup
Fastball: Ward has a great fastball, and it is one of the better heaters in the Twins organization. His heater regularly sits in the mid-90s range, and he has the ability to crank it up to 97 on some occasions. His fastball is of the four-seam variety, and he definitely uses it in pressure situations.
Other Pitches: As previously stated, Ward has a top-of-the-line slider, which was ranked as the best in the Cincinnati Reds' farm system. It is a sharp, breaking slider, which almost looks like a power curve. He also has a changeup, which is a work in progress, but it is one that could solidify his three-pitch arsenal. If he can hone his changeup, then he will definitely have the stuff to be a front of the rotation starter.
Pitching: Ward has a bulldog-type mentality, and he has confidence in both his fastball, and his slider. He loves taking the ball every fifth day, although some think he may have to move to the bullpen eventually. He is also very gritty, and has the mid to work out of situations that could tank a lesser pitcher.
Projection: Some believe Ward is slated to be a big-time bullpen guy, but I still believe that he could be a front of the rotation starter. He has fantastic stuff, and once he gains control of all his pitches, then he should be able to continue to put together good numbers. Look for him to be in the front of the rotation in Fort Myers next season.
ETA. 2009 Once the Twins figure out where exactly Ward fits in their system, it will be easier to gauge when he is going to make it to Minnesota. They are still unsure whether he is a starter or a reliever, but he is definitely a great addition to the organization. He should perform well in the Florida State League next season, and could make his Double-A debut. This will be a telling season for Ward, and hopefully he can show the magic he showed to start the 2006 season.