During Houston’s run to a division title in 1999, it seemed that Ward had emerged as the next star outfielder to emerge from the Astros organization. Filling a gap created by an injury to Derek Bell, Ward proceeded to hit eight homers in 150 at-bats, while maintaining a .273 batting average. He had high expectations for the following year, but couldn’t earn regular playing time despite swatting 20 homers in just 264 at-bats. Crowded out of the picture by Richard Hidalgo, former #1 draft pick Lance Berkman, and returning star Moises Alou, Ward finished the season on the bench.
As an outfielder, Ward was a fine first baseman. His weight problems greatly reduced his speed, and his poor defensive instincts and weak arm made him a liability in the field. Stuck behind perennial All-Star first baseman Jeff Bagwell, Ward found himself in a catch-22: he had too much potential to be traded cheaply, but he was not good enough to start. His powerful bat (and stomach) were thereby condemned to the bench.
An All-Star with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs, Ward played in the home run derby against fellow power hitting prospect Russell Branyan. Like their major league careers, both fell short of expectations, with each man swatting just one homer.