With the 26th pick in the 2015 Major League Draft, the Los Angeles Angels surprised many with their first selection:
Ward, a two-time all-MWC selection, was an easy first-team choice in 2015 after hitting .304/.413/.486 for the Bulldogs, though his early removal from draft boards caught many offguard. The reaction to the pick was divisive, to say the least.
#MLBDraft: No catching in the class. Grab the guy you like (who was likely gone in the supp) and lean on depth for 2nd pick.— Nick J. Faleris (@NickJFaleris) June 9, 2015
Whoa, Taylor Ward to the Angels at No. 26. I know catching is scarce in this draft, but I think this is a reach.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 9, 2015
I think I'm the high guy on Angels pick Taylor Ward. 68th on my board, big numbers, good receiver, 70 arm, athletic, swing just alright.— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) June 9, 2015
Perhaps most interestingly, however, is the reaction from SB Nation's own Angels blog, Halos Heaven, who make no bones about their opinion in the headline of their article about Ward and decry the choice as "the stupidest first pick [they've] seen the Angels make in a decade."
This year's draft was considered to be fairly thin overall, save for a strong crop of middle infielders. However, though Ward was ranked 70th overall by Baseball America, he was ranked as the fifth-best catcher among their top 500 prospects. In going 26th overall, Ward ended up the second catcher actually selected, following high schooler Tyler Stephenson, who went 11th to the Cincinnati Reds.
Assuming that Ward does not decide to return to Fresno State for his senior season, he stands to be a vital cog in the Angels' overall draft strategy if he signs for less than slot value. BA notes that the slot value of the 26th pick is just over two million dollars, though it can be argued the Angels will seek a discount given that the team's overall pool for draft bonuses is approximately $5 million, which ranks near the bottom of all 30 teams.