Boston Red Sox: Just how good could Thad Ward be when he arrives?
By Hunter Noll
Just how good could Boston Red Sox pitching prospect Thad Ward be?
It is no secret that I follow the Boston Red Sox minor league system a little bit too closely. One of the players that I spoke about a lot in 2019 was Thaddeus Ward.
Thad Ward is a starting pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization. He was selected in the fifth-round of the 2018 draft. So you are excused if you don’t know much about him. However, that’s going to change pretty fast.
In 2018, the right-handed pitcher made an immediate impression with a 3.77 ERA in 31 innings in Short-A. Okay, the BAA (.275) and WHIP (1.45) weren’t great, but it was his first taste of the minors.
2019 proved that Ward was already improving quickly and ready for a much bigger challenge. He split the season between Full-A and Advanced-A. In 126 1/3 innings Ward posted a 2.14 ERA, .198 BAA and 1.16 WHIP. Major improvements and legitimately fantastic numbers. Oh, and in case you needed anything more, he struck out 157 batters in that time.
So Ward is clearly on the right path. Why should you be excited about him though? And just for fun, when exactly could that arrival be? Come to think of it, how good could he be when he actually arrives on the scene?
Okay. Let’s answer these in order.
Why should you be excited about Thad Ward? That’s pretty easy. There are a few things to point to. First of all, the numbers since joining the Red Sox minors are incredible. I’ve already shown you those.
Then there are the pitches. We’ll go from worst to best when it comes to the pitches.
There’s a curveball that I admittedly know very little about having barely seen it. It looks like something that could really throw hitters off if he uses it sparingly though.
Next is the fastball. It sits in the low-mid 90s right now. That’s nothing incredible, but he has reached back for the upper-mid 90s and maybe that’s something he hits with more regularity in the future. Good command, so a great regular pitch.
Then there’s the slider that rocks right around 80 MPH. Ward has a great bite on the offering. And one of my favorite pitches in baseball is that down-and-out slider with two strikes to get someone chasing. That’s something he can probably get working often.
Finally, a cutter that I’m in love with. Seriously, one of my favorite cutters in the minors. You know what? In baseball at the moment. “Nasty” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’m talking Royce-Da-5’9″-L.A.-Leakers-freestyle nasty levels (that Shannon Sharpe/Skip Bayless line is all types of ridiculous).
The cutter hovers around 87-88 MPH with a sharp late cut. It looks a lot like his 4-seam coming out of the hand. But that deceptive movement and slowed down speed is going to make hitters look bad. In fact, it already does that. This will probably be his big K pitch.
All that goes well with his 6’3″, 182 lb frame.
Okay, so now you have the reasons to be excited. What about that arrival time? Finishing the year in Advanced-A last season might make a lot of people think Ward still has a lot of work to do before joining the Red Sox. However, Boston is not far off for the pitcher.
Ward is 23. This is not a 19-year-old pitcher that needs all types of refining. He’s still growing and improving absolutely, but there is already a lot to love. And his dominance of Full-A and Advanced-A last season is proof of that.
If this was a normal 162-game season I would tell you with 90% confidence that Ward would be in the Majors by the end of the year (barring something crazy).
Admittedly, not as confident now. He still has a chance because of all the craziness going on this year, but let’s just pencil Ward’s debut in for 2021 as of right now (hate that I have to do it but here we are).
That leaves just one thing; how good could Ward be in the Majors? Well I’ve already told you about the pitches. What else though?
How about this. Ward only threw less than four innings twice in 2019. Both were games where he had to leave early due to injury. Outside of that, 19-of-23 starts saw him go at least five innings.
9-of-12 starts in Advanced-A had Ward going five-plus innings. And two of those were the injury games. So 9-of-10 non-injury games saw him go five-or-more innings.
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21-of-25 starts saw Ward strikeout at least five batters. One was an injury game, one saw him strikeout two batters and the other two game he picked up four strikeouts. So the Ks are there.
Meanwhile, he gave up just six home runs in 2019. Even with the big strikeout numbers, he is not giving up many mistakes.
And if all of that isn’t getting you hyped up for Ward, what about the Boston rotation?
The Red Sox don’t have much going for them right now. Chris Sale is out and Nathan Eovaldi is a major question mark. Obviously, Eduardo Rodriguez is a star but he’s just one man. The rest of the rotation is in shambles.
Ward could be a legitimate solution in a year. He’s one of the top prospects in the system. It’s not just for show either. The pitcher has serious stuff and an impressive resume that is only getting better.
If you look up the best pitching prospects in baseball right now, Ward’s name probably won’t be on the list.
He’s done everything right so far though.
- Prototypical size? Check.
- Strong repertoire of pitches? Check.
- Breakout year? Check.
- Big-time strikeout numbers? Check.
- Position of need for his team? Check.
- Earlier-round draft pick? Check.
- First name is “Thaddeus” (seriously that’s just a baller first name)? Check.
There is no rational reason for Thad Ward to be flying under the radar, but it’s happening. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when he gets that call-up and becomes an impact pitcher for the Boston Red Sox almost immediately though.