When the Washington Nationals' lineup for this afternoon's game was announced on Twitter this morning there was one "interesting," somewhat unexpected name listed.
Batting eighth and playing third base for the defending NL East Champions in Grapefruit League action with the New York Yankees: Drew Ward. Drew Ward?
The Nationals' 2013 3rd Round pick was penciled in as the third baseman for today's game against the Yankees.
The 20-year-old slugger started his professional career with a 49-game run with the Gulf Coast Nats in 2013, posting a .292/.402/.387 line with 13 doubles, a home run, 25 walks and 44 Ks in 199 plate appearances.
In 2014, Ward moved up to Low-A Hagerstown, where the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing infielder put up a .269/.341/.413 line with 26 doubles, three triples and 10 HRs in 115 games and 478 PAs.
Baseball America ranked Ward 8th overall on their last of the Nationals' Top 10 prospects this winter.
If you're not familiar with Ward, let's catch you up real quick.
The Nationals selected Ward out of Leedey High School in Oklahoma after he hit .507 (67-for-131) with 9 HRs, 39 RBIs and 57 walks in 32 games as the Nats noted in a press release on the selection in June of 2013.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo offered his own take on Ward during the Draft broadcast:
Mayo: "You're talking about potential big-time power. Some teams were having a hard time putting an exact figure on that big-time power because you didn't see him against good competition."
The Nationals were following Ward closely, however, as then-Asst. GM Roy Clark told reporters that June, and when the hard-hitting infielder did the work to graduate from high school early and become eligible for the Draft, the Nats were ready.
"We've been tracking [Ward] since last summer," Clark said, "once we heard that he might be coming out early. We saw him a bunch, and of course we tracked him this year. He's from a small town, little small town, but he played for a high profile team in summer ball, so we got a lot of looks on him, but we knew that he might be coming out early."
"We took three, what we consider, big-time power bats," Clark added. "And of course [Ward] is one of them."
"Drew's going to move from short to third base," Nationals' Assistant GM and Director of Scouting Kris Kline said.
"And he's got a plus arm, he's got good action. Good hands. He's not a runner, but he's a left-handed bat with a really good advanced approach. And he's got power from the left side, so he definitely profiles as a corner-type player."
Ward was at the hot corner today with a major league lineup around him and Doug Fister on the mound.
Nothing came Ward's way in an 11-pitch, 2 K, 1-2-3 opening frame by the Nationals' starter.
Yunel Escobar took his first at bat of the Spring in competitive action in the bottom of the first.
The 32-year-old infielder, acquired from the Oakland A's this winter to play second base with the Nationals, beat out a high chopper to third for his first hit, but three outs later he was stranded at first base as 23-year-old, Yankees' right-hander Bryan Mitchell retired the next three batters in order.
Yankees' DH John Ryan Murphy took a fastball back up the middle for a one-out single off Fister in the second. Fister got a double play grounder out of Brendan Ryan, but had to settle for a force at second when Escobar airmailed the 4-3 throw after the 6-4 putout. A diving 1-2 slider outside got outfielder Aaron Judge swinging for out no.3 and Fister's third K. 19-pitch frame for Fister, 30 total after two.
Ward's first at bat with the Nats this Spring came with two runners on and one out in the second after back-to-back walks by Clint Robinson and Michael Taylor. Ward went the other way with a 1-1 fastball from Mitchell, and was credited with a hit by the official scorer when Brendan Ryan bobbled the ball and threw late to third. Doug Fister grounded into an inning-ending DP in the next AB.
NY's second baseman, Rob Refsnyder, lined a double to left off Fister in the first at bat of the third and took third base on a groundout by Nick Noonan before scoring on a sharp grounder to second on which Yunel Escobar made a nice diving play. 1-0 Yankees. Two down for Fister.
Chris Young took a curve off the back of his left knee for a two-out HBP, and came home the easy way when Brian McCann crushed a fastball up in the zone from Fister and hit a two-run home run out to right field. 3-0 Yankees. 50 pitches total after a 20-pitch frame.
Aaron Judge hit a one-out, line drive single to left off Fister in the Yankees' fourth. Rob Refsnyder singled to center in the next at bat. After Michael Taylor made a range-y running catch in deep center to take a potential extra-base hit away from Nick Noonan, Brett Gardner stepped in with runners on the corners and two down and went down looking at an over-the-top, 68 mph 1-2 bender that was called strike three. Fister was up to 64 pitches total after a 14-pitch fourth. 3-0 NY.
At bat no.2 for Drew Ward came with two runners (Wilson Ramos and Michael Taylor) on again in the fifth and a left-hander, Chasen Shreve, on the mound for New York. Ward fell behind 1-2, and rolled over a changeup, moving both runners into scoring position with a groundout to first so Fister could drive them in with a line drive single to center and make it 3-2 Yankees.
Jose Ramirez took over on the mound for NY there and gave up a two-out single to center by Danny Espinosa, and Ian Desmond put the Nationals ahead 4-3 with a two-run double to left-center.
After helping his own cause, Fister returned to the mound and got up 0-2 on Chris Young quickly, but gave up a solo home run on a 2-2 fastball, knee-high inside. 4-4 tie. Ryan Zimmerman made a diving play and a toss to the covering pitcher in the next at bat, which ended up being Fister's last. 72 pitches total...
Doug Fister's Line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 72 P, 7/2 GO/FO.
Rich Hill took over on the hi--, um, mound and issued a two-out walk to Brendan Ryan, but kept it tied at 4-4 after five.
Casey Janssen walked Rob Refsnyder in the first at bat of the sixth, missing with a full-count fastball. Refsnyder took second on a groundout by Nick Noonan, and scored when Chris Young hit his second home run of the game out to left on a 2-0 fastball up in the zone from Janssen. 6-4 NY after five and a half.
At bat no.3 for Ward came with one out in the home-half of the sixth. He lined out to left on a first-pitch fastball from Yankees' right-hander Kyle Davies. 1 for 3 for Ward.
Craig Stammen threw a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh.
Ryan Zimmerman stepped in with pinch runners on the corners and one down after an Ian Desmond walk and a Bryce Harper single in the home-half of the seventh. Stephen Perez, who came on for Desmond and went first-to-third™ on Harper's hit, scored on a botched pick attempt with Zimmerman at the plate, 6-5. Zimmerman doubled to left on a sharp grounder that got by Jonathan Galvez at third and Jose Lobaton doubled to right off Davies to bring two runs in and give the Nationals a 7-6 lead.
Blake Treinen took over on the mound in the eighth and issued a leadoff walk, which was quickly erased on a 6-4-3 DP in the next AB. Yankees' catcher Austin Romine K'd looking at a 93 mph, 1-2 fastball to end a 14 pitch frame.
Heath Bell came on to close it out in the ninth and retired the side in order. Ballgame. 7-6 Nats final.