The Daryle Ward Story… Ward is the son of former major leaguer Gary Ward, an outfielder who had a 12-year career in which he had one really good season (1982) and a whole lot of mediocre ones. Daryle, who hits and throws left, was a 15th-round pick of the Tigers in 1994, had a good year in high-A Lakeland in 1996, then was included in one of the massive trades the Tigers and Astros had in that period, in which nine current or future major leaguers changed hands.
Ward bludgeoned AA and AAA the next couple of seasons, but was never able to transfer that success to the big leagues. He was in and out of the lineup for the Astros from 1999-2002. He hit for pretty good power, including 20 HR in 264 AB in 2000, but low batting averages and a poor walk rate kept him from being a real contributor. He was traded to the Dodgers, where he very nearly washed out of the league by hitting .183/.211/.193 in 109 AB in 2003. He signed a free agent contract with the Pirates, where he hit an occasional home run and didn’t do anything else to contribute for the next two years.
Ward signed with the Natspos in the offseason, and this year he’s hit .308/.390/.567, mostly as a pinch-hitter. This is a huge surprise, considering that his career line is .262/.313/.445 and his career highs in BA and OBP are .276 and .324. How much of this is real improvement and how much is a fluke? I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing 80 percent fluke. It’s 123 plate appearances, and anything can happen over that small a sample.
Ward’s father was a good athlete; he is not. Daryle is a big slow guy with one career stolen base (in 2002) and five career triples. He’s listed as an outfielder but is a natural first baseman who just happened to come up on a team that had Jeff Bagwell, and has played a little more outfield than first for his career. His range factors in the outfield are just plain awful and I’m guessing that any stat would show that. He played only eighteen games in the field for the Natspos and will probably play even less for the Braves unless something really odd happens. He’s brought in to pinch-hit. I am not sure that he’s really an improvement over the Orr/Langerhans/Thorman group and the Braves could have used a righthanded bat more. Oh, wait, we have Brian Jordan back!