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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Thaddeus Ward’s recovery path

The righty will spend most, if not all, of 2022 recovering from Tommy John.

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Thaddeus Ward, 2019
Kelly O’Connor

As we move towards the end of our annual community top 20 Red Sox prospect rankings, we tend to see a dwindling number of votes, presumably because we’re getting into a little bit more of a niche-y type area of the system. That, in turn, leads to closer votes, and sure enough for this number 19 spot we had a tie. To break this tie, because the tie occurred at the last second and I didn’t have time to poll staff, I looked to the expert rankings and went with the player who was consistently ranked more highly on those lists. That would be right-handed pitcher Thaddeus Ward, who comes in as our number 19 prospect.

Ward was not a super high profile prospect coming out of college, with the Red Sox selecting him in the fifth round back in the 2018 draft out of the University of Central Florida. The righty had served mainly as a reliever in his college days, but the scouts from Boston who saw him believed there was a starter’s profile somewhere in there, so they made the conversion to the rotation when he entered the organization. Ward ended up making 11 short starts in that first summer of pro ball, pitching in Lowell and putting up solid but unspectacular numbers in that stint. He finished with a 3.77 ERA over 31 innings of work.

But over that offseason, Ward got to work on making some adjustments, and he’d come back for his first full season in pro ball in 2019 and really started opening eyes. After working on a cutter over the winter, it quickly became his best secondary and helped catapult him into a big breakout, putting him on the map for Red Sox fans. The righty started that season at Low-A Greenville, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and a 2.85 FIP over 13 starts there, leading to a midseason promotion up to High-A Salem. The jump did not seem to faze Ward. Although his walk rate to jump into somewhat uncomfortable territory with a 14 percent rate, he still missed enough bats and induced enough weak contact to finish with a 2.33 ERA in High-A over 12 starts.

Suddenly, Ward was one of the more intriguing starters in the system, and heading into the 2020 season he was our number nine prospect on this very list, ranking ahead of, among others, Tanner Houck. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t been able to build off that 2019 momentum. The righty was, of course, not able to pitch in 2020 with the minor-league season being cancelled by COVID, which led to a much-anticipated 2021 campaign. That never really got off the ground, though. After just two outings at Double-A Portland, Ward was put on the injured list with forearm pain that eventually led to Tommy John surgery, which was performed in early June.

With the caveat that we can never truly know what a pitcher is going to look like upon their return from major surgery, the tools are there for Ward to be a very solid four or five starter if he’s able to come back from Tommy John looking like the guy he was before the surgery. He has a complete starter’s arsenal, with a solid fastball that can sit in the low-to-mid 90s and get up a couple ticks higher when needed, along with that aforementioned cutter which serves as his primary out pitch, a good slider, and solid changeup.

The stuff is there to miss bats with potentially three above-average pitches and four pitches that should settle in as at least average, which would seemingly give him a solid floor as at least a long reliever. (Again, that’s assuming recovery from Tommy John goes smoothly.) The big challenge for him as he starts to pitch in the upper levels of the minors is getting his command in check, both with his fastballs and his secondaries. His walk rate has crept up even in his short time in the minors as he’s moved up the ladder, and those free passes will prevent him from really grabbing hold of a starter’s role moving forward.

For this season, though, it’s just about taking the proper steps in his rehab and not trying to push things too quickly and suffer a setback. With his surgery having taken place in early June, there’s a chance he can get a couple of tune up starts in at the end of the season and perhaps participate in the Arizona Fall League, but don’t expect him to pitch all that much this season. Ward is an intriguing prospect who is relatively close to the majors, but that road to the bigs likely won’t restart in earnest until 2023.

Here is our full list thus far:

  1. Triston Casas, 1B
  2. Marcelo Mayer, SS
  3. Nick Yorke, 2B
  4. Jarren Duran, OF
  5. Brayan Bello, RHP
  6. Bryan Mata, RHP
  7. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
  8. Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B
  9. Jay Groome, LHP
  10. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
  11. Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP
  12. Connor Seabold, RHP
  13. Brandon Walter, LHP
  14. Josh Winckowski, RHP
  15. Noah Song, RHP
  16. Miguel Bleis, OF
  17. Alex Binelas, 3B
  18. Ronaldo Hernández, C
  19. Thaddeus Ward, RHP

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number 20 prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...