The Yankees have become familiar with a host of first basemen over the last four seasons.
Repeated injuries to Greg Bird have forced the organization to patch together the position with a mix of internal and external options. On April 16, after Bird suffered a torn plantar fascia, the opportunity went to Mike Ford, who had exploded out of the gate for Scranton in early 2019. With his first taste of major league action, the New Jersey native took another step on his journey from being an undrafted free agent out of the Ivy League, to a Rule 5 draft pick, then finally getting the chance to play for the team that signed him.
Ford’s first step toward the majors came as he played for former-Yankee Scott Bradley, the head coach at Princeton University. He excelled immediately on campus as both a pitcher and a first basemen, earning Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors after his freshman season. Ford’s junior season, where he posted a 0.98 ERA while hitting .320, led him to become the first Ivy Leaguer to be named both the Player and Pitcher of the Year.
After this impressive campaign, Ford figured to draw some interest in the MLB Draft, but his name was never called. He then headed to the Cape Cod League to compete alongside many of the best college players in the country. Playing for the Cotuit Kettleers, Ford proved he belonged. Hitting .407 with five home runs in 26 games, he earned the attention of numerous scouts on the Cape that summer. Having drawn interest from multiple teams, Ford made his choice and became a Yankee in July 2013.
While never hitting the top prospects list, Ford produced at every level of the minors, always finishing with a wRC+ over 120 from 2013-2017. Splitting time between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2017, Ford walked more than he struck out, while producing an .875 OPS between the levels.
Despite his solid bat and plate discipline, Ford did not crack the Yankees crowded 40-man roster, and he was picked by Seattle in the Rule 5 draft that December. Playing for Seattle the next spring, Ford heated up as the Cactus League continued, finishing with a flurry of extra-base hits and a .385 OBP. That said, he could not remain in this crowded Seattle infield. After missing out on his chance to crack a major-league roster for the first time, Ford struggled in his return to the Yankees organization. His walk rate dropped and he missed roughly a month of action with an injury. Then 2019 came and he jumped back on the radar.
With Edwin Encarnacion’s injury, Ford will get another look at the majors. The timing is right, too, as his productivity has taken off for Scranton. He leads the International League with a 1.007 OPS, while striking out only 15.7% of the time and walking at 13.4% clip. He leads all Yankees minor leaguers with 23 home runs, hitting 20 of them to right and right-center. Ford, with his lefty swing, pulls the ball 46% of the time and seems primed to take advantage of Yankees Stadium’s short porch.
Through 11 games and 40 plate appearances with the Yankees, Ford’s bat has yet to provide the impact that he has shown at the lower levels. What has translated is that he has drawn nine walks and has a .400 OBP. Being able to get on base is key for a player who may be filling in for short stretches, as it raises the floor and keeps the lineup moving along.
Ford has produced at every level from college to Triple-A. His disciplined approach at the plate helps him get to his power, and that will prove valuable to the Yankees down the stretch. Playing a position that the Yankees have struggled to man with productive options since 2015, Ford stands ready to hit.