Angels use top pick on defensive catcher Taylor Ward of Fresno State

Angels select Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward in the MLB Draft

The Angels emphasized defense over offense with their first-round pick in the 2015 draft Monday night, selecting Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward with the 26th overall pick.

Ward, 21, hit .303 with a .413 on-base percentage, .486 slugging percentage, seven home runs, 14 doubles and 42 runs batted in as a junior this season, striking out 34 times and walking 35 times in 59 games.

But according to reports, Ward's offense lags well behind his defense. According to Baseball America, Ward has “solid rather than spectacular receiving skills to go with one of the best throwing arms in the country … and his throws are accurate and true.”

Ward, who at 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds is athletic and runs well for a catcher, threw out 13 of 23 runners trying to steal this season. In fact, Baseball America believes that Ward’s “athletic frame and arm strength would play on the mound if he doesn’t hit enough to stick behind the plate, and scouts have their doubts about his bat.”

The magazine went on to say that the left-handed-hitting Ward “hit 13 home runs the last two seasons combined and has decent pull power, though he lacks a natural feel for hitting.”

Baseball America rated Ward as the 70th overall prospect in the draft, and ranked him 99th. The Angels obviously have a higher opinion of Ward, who was an All-Mountain West Conference first-team selection this season and served as a backup on USA Baseball’s collegiate national team last summer.

“We are very excited with this selection, and this is a great pick for us,” Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said in a statement. “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.”

The last time the Angels selected a catcher with a first-round pick was in 2006, when they chose Hank Conger out of Huntington Beach High. The Angels will have until July 17 to sign Ward, who attended Shadow Hills High in Indio. Major League Baseball’s suggested slot value for the pick is $2.034 million.

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