Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward posted a video on social media of himself playing catch on Wednesday, marking the first time he has done so since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Ward, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking seventh among pitchers in the organization.
The right-hander was originally selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida and had opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.
Just two starts and eight innings into his tenure with the Sea Dogs, however, it was revealed that Ward would require Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow after he suffered a forearm strain in mid-May. The procedure was later performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida in early June, thus ending the righty’s year prematurely.
Fast forward six months later, though, and it appears that Ward is on the right track towards a full recovery. While it’s likely that he won’t pitch in a game again until late 2022 at the earliest, the Red Sox will still have an interesting decision to make regarding Ward’s status in the coming weeks.
Major-league clubs have until November 19 to add eligible minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, which is slated to take place during the winter meetings in December.
Along with the likes of Jeter Downs, Brayan Bello, and Gilberto Jimenez, Ward is one of several top Red Sox prospects who could become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to Boston’s 40-man roster later this month.
A native of Fort Myers, Fla., the 6-foot-3, 192 pound hurler is certainly an interesting candidate to be added. In his first full professional season in 2019, he posted a 2.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 157:57 over 25 starts spanning 126 1/3 innings pitched between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem.
This past spring, he put up a 5.63 ERA and 2.64 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to five walks in his two outings for Portland prior to getting injured.
With that being said, there would be some caveats to adding Ward on account of the fact that he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which can take anywhere between 12-18 months to heal from.
Put another way, if the Red Sox were to add Ward to their 40-man roster before the Nov. 19 deadline, he would essentially be taking up a spot on their roster going into next season. Boston could place Ward, who turns 25 in January, on the 60-day injured list to temporarily clear a roster spot, but would subsequently be starting his service time clock as a result of doing so.
If Ward were to be left unprotected heading into next month’s Rule 5 Draft, other clubs would have the chance to select him. Any team that picks him up, though, would then ordinarily be tasked with carrying him on their active roster for a minimum of 90 days.
Since that would be unlikely to execute in Ward’s case, his new club would presumably place him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2022 campaign before being subject to the same set of rules in 2023.
Those rules being that once healthy, Ward will have to remain on his new team’s 26-man roster for the entire 2023 season or otherwise be offered back to the Red Sox.
It’s a fascinating situation, and one that can definitely be classified as unique and maybe even somewhat confusing. That said, all signs seem to point to the Red Sox not adding Ward to their 40-man roster by the Nov. 19 deadline and thus exposing him to this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.
(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)