Nationals minor league roving coordinator and former Triple-A Syracuse manager Billy Gardner Jr., was a third baseman in the majors himself, so he has a unique perspective when working with third base prospect Drew Ward. Gardner believes Ward has a chance to make it to the next level.
Ward had a very good start to the 2016 campaign at high Single-A Potomac, hitting .278 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs.
Last season, Ward played in 121 games at Double-A Harrisburg, hitting .235 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs. Gardner has been able to put eyes on him during spring training in Florida. Ward got two at-bats so far this spring with the Nationals after playing in 10 spring training games in 2017.
“I’ve seen Drew down here and he looks good,” Gardner said. “He swings the bat well. He is in really good shape and he’s focused. I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of him in years past because I’ve been up at the major league level most of spring training and he’s been at Double-A. But what I’m seeing now is a kid who is very focused, determined to get back on the radar screen for us. He is swinging that bat well for us right now from what I’ve seen and I like his action at third base.”
Left-hander Bryan Harper, the older brother of Nats slugger Bryce Harper, was recently reassigned to minor league camp but had some solid outings with the big club in spring training games, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in five appearances. Bryan Harper sat out last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Gardner believes Harper has a shot to make it to the next level if he can pitch the way he is capable of when healthy.
“I think he does,” Gardner said. “He pitched for me in Syracuse and then he got hurt. Then he had to come back, obviously. I saw a kid that really got a lot better. I think he added velo to his fastball and he also had a slider, which was very effective to take care of left-handed hitters. This is something that he will need to do: be that left-handed guy who can get left-handers out. There’s not a lot of those guys out there. He’s certainly capable of doing it.”