If the ability to poach good talent from their rivals is any indication of how aggressive the Cincinnati Reds will be in improving their club this winter, well, things certainly are off to quite a start. After previously hiring Derek Johnson away from the Milwaukee Brewers to be their new pitching coach, the Reds announced today that they’ve hired Turner Ward to be their new hitting coach.
Ward, 54, had been the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2016.
The Dodgers, as that press release notes, have hit the crud out of the ball the last few seasons, leading the league in dingers and placing second in walks during his tenure. And before you inevitably sigh and say sure they did, they have a quarter-billion dollar payroll, look a bit closer at just who hit so well on his watch.
Rookies Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger wasted little time in adapting to big league pitching, hitting immediately upon entering the league. Matt Kemp, whose career had truly petered out after leaving LA in 2014, had a renaissance season in 2018 after returning to the Dodgers. Max Muncy went from a DFA’d afterthought in the Oakland system to a 35 home run hitter, and Chris Taylor and his 116 OPS+ over the last two years have a similar story of flourishing under Ward’s watch.
Prior to his stint with the Dodgers, Ward spent a good bit of time in the Arizona Diamondbacks system as a hitting coach and minor league manager, in his time there helping tutor the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock, Jake Lamb, and Justin Upton. Those guys turned out pretty well.
Unlike the coup of hiring Johnson to come attempt to fix the brutal pitching staff, Ward obviously walks into a Reds corps of hitters (and ballpark) that should already be pretty conducive for scoring runs-a-plenty. Maybe he can help Joey Votto rediscover his power stroke, or do something similar with the emerging Jesse Winker. Maybe, just maybe he can help unlock the potential in Billy Hamilton. Or, who knows...maybe he’s exactly the kind of advocate the Reds might need to sign, I dunno, free agent AJ Pollock to be their next CF, since those two have quite the previous history with one another...
Welcome to the Reds, Turner. Here’s to socking dingers.