The WSU Cougars' first player from the 2012 team came off the board in the Major League Baseball draft today when the Seattle Mariners selected WSU first baseman Taylor Ard -- who led WSU in home runs and was selected to the Pac-12 all-conference team -- in the seventh round.
Ard was a 25th round selection in the 2011 draft by the Boston Red Sox and was able to dramatically improve his draft stock as a result of returning to school for his junior season.
There's really no better way to describe Ard than as a big, bad masher -- at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, the righty hit .332 with 12 home runs, compiling at .412 on-base percentage and .577 slugging percentage for a .989 OPS. Despite his size, he's a solid defender as well, having been a shortstop in high school before growing into a first baseman.
The interesting thing about Ard is that his 2012 numbers were virtually identical to his 2011 numbers (.337/.408/.577, 10 home runs), but he piled most of that up against the weaker second half of the Cougars' schedule last season. There were questions about his bat speed and it was unclear as to whether his strong second half was a result of seeing less elite arms or simply finally adjusting to the Division I game after transferring from community college. He also struggled in the wood bat Cape Cod League last summer.
Ard answered those questions and then some this season by hitting from the beginning of the year to the end. It was assumed that Ard would not be returning for his senior season, and this confirms it.
Congratulations to Taylor from all of us at CougCenter.