First-round pick Taylor Ward agrees to terms with Angels

Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward wasn't kidding when he said he was eager to start career with the Angels

Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward wasn’t kidding when he said Monday night that he was eager to start his professional career with the Angels.

The Angels on Friday signed their first-round draft choice, Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward, for a bonus of $1.67 million – almost 20 percent below the $2.034 million bonus recommended for the 26th pick.

"This is such a great organization with such great fans,” Ward said after a press conference at Angel Stadium. “I'm really blessed to be part of it. With these guys, it didn't take much for me to sign. Anything to help them out, that's what I'm going to do. The Angels came after me from day one at Fresno State."

Scouting director Ric Wilson said the team would have drafted Ward even if he had insisted on the full recommended value but said the team now can apply the savings to signing its other picks.

“We’ll be able to sign everybody (of interest),” Wilson said.

Ward is expected to begin his career with the Angels' short-season Orem (Utah) affiliate next week. He said he was not sure how long he would need to get to the minor leagues.

"Hopefully, two or three years," he said. "That would be great."

Ward said he needs work on calling a game. At Fresno State, he said, the coaches called all the pitches.

Ward, 21, started all 59 games for the Bulldogs this season, batting .304 with seven home runs, but he is considered far more advanced on defense than he is with the bat.

According to Baseball America, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound 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 is athletic and runs well for a catcher, threw out 13 of 23 base-stealers this season. In fact, Baseball America says 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.”

Angels scouting director Ric Wilson likes Ward’s size, strength and athleticism, and he loves his arm.

“He has a well-above average arm—he can really throw,” Wilson said this week. “When it’s all said and done, I think he will be premium defender who will be able to shut down running games. He also has some strength in his swing, and he controls the strike zone as a hitter.”

Ward, who met several Angels players, including Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, and Manager Mike Scioscia before Wednesday night’s game in Tampa Bay, is expected to spend some time at the team’s Arizona training complex and join Class-A Orem (Utah) when the short-season team begins play on June 18. Wilson said he believes Ward can reach the big leagues by 2018.

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