Brian Ward was signed by the Orioles as a non-drafted free agent in 2009 out of Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State College.
He was sent to play with the IronBirds, where he immediately began to show off his patient approach at the plate and plus defensive skills — the two things that have carried him throughout his professional career. He posted 20 walks and struck out just 16 times in 137 plate appearances while throwing out 35% of base stealers.
While he still flashed strong defensive skills, Ward struggled at the plate for most of 2010, hitting just .199 in 289 plate appearances for the Keys.
Ward was sent back to Frederick for 2011 and began to show progression offensively. On top of his improvements at the plate, Ward raised his CS% to an outstanding 53%.
Don: Ward has really picked up his skills defensively. He has eliminated a great deal of wasted movement behind the plate.
His patience in waiting until the last second to set up gives almost no tell to the hitters, which bodes well for him handling a staff.
I clocked him well enough to think that he is an above replacement catcher defensively and grades out well enough to make an impact defensively with limited at bats.
He has a sound idea for strike zone judgement and makes necessary in game adjustments to remain a patient hitter at the plate. He has a strong core and thick trunk, so there is some pop potential in the bat.
He tends to have a wide base with limited loading. He does draw back, but is still shallow, and goes quickly through the zone. I wonder if the wide base might limit his hip turn. If he narrows it, he could improve the torque and whip his bat head around sooner.
I do not know if the Orioles tweaked him to limit the movements; this is just something I saw. His ability at the plate could be late blooming because he lacked the early exposure that most tend to get against quality competition. He has a patient approach and his selective hitting keeps him in a position to make contact, hit for average and get on base.
He calls a good game at this point, but if he can show a serviceable bat in spring training it would go a long way towards getting him a role with the parent club or another club in the near future. There is room for him as a backup catcher in this league, if he continues to improve.
In early 2012, he is going to be the starting backstop at Bowie and depending on his progression he could push Caleb Joseph for a role at Norfolk, which is not entirely out of the question given his defensive ability.
He could be one injury, or bad play by Taylor Teagarden, away from seeing extensive time in Baltimore.