The Angels selected catcher Taylor Ward out of Fresno State University (Calif.), as their first pick (1st round, 26th overall) in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft. The announcement was made by Angels' Director of Scouting Ric Wilson.
"We are very excited with this selection and this is a great pick for us," Wilson said. "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, 21, started all 59 games for Fresno State (only player on team to do so) during the 2014-15 season and ranked among the Bulldogs leaders with a .304 (65/214) batting average (3rd), 14 doubles (2nd), seven home runs (T-1st), 42 RBI (1st) and 104 total bases (1st). Behind the plate, he successfully caught 13 of 23 (56.5%) runners attempting to steal a base this season. Among Mountain West Conference leaders, Ward ranked tied for seventh in home runs and walks (35). For his three-year career at Fresno State, Ward batted .288 (157/545) with 29 doubles, 16 home runs and 98 RBI in 162 games played, while successfully throwing out 33 of 55 (60%) potential basestealers. He is the only current Bulldog named a back-to-back All-Mountain West Conference selection.
Ward becomes the seventh catcher in franchise history to be selected in the first round of the draft and first since Hank Conger in 2006. He is also the first collegiate catcher taken in the first round by the Halos since John Orton was selected out of California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo in 1987. He was the second backstop selected in the 2015 draft and the first collegiate catcher to be taken.
Ward was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 31st round of the 2012 draft out of Shadow Hills High School in Indio, CA before electing to play for Fresno State.
A native of Oviedo, Fla., Ward is the first of two selections the Angels will make on the first day of the draft. The Halos also hold the 70th overall selection, which will come in the second round of the draft.
The Angels current active roster features five players who were first round draft picks by the Halos: C.J. Cron (17th overall - 2011), Cam Bedrosian (29th overall - 2010), Mike Trout (25th overall - 2009), Garrett Richards (42nd overall - 2009) and Jered Weaver (12th overall - 2004).