The Yankees’ depth continues to unveil players ready to contribute and the latest to join the list is Mike Ford. Injuries to Luke Voit and Edwin Encarnacion opened up the door for the Scranton slugger in early August and this time around his call-up wouldn’t go unnoticed. Ford has used the opportunity to show exactly what he is capable of. Not only has the power come to life, but Ford continues to display exceptional plate discipline proving he belongs in the major leagues. The sample size might be small but considering his track record in the minors and his recent showcasing, Ford could very well be starting if he wasn’t on the Yankees.
Early in the season if asked whether you believed mostly all Yankees hitters would perform above league average — having a wRC+ of 100 or higher — you could have said yes and had little to no doubt. However, earlier in the season half the roster was different. Ford is just one more reinforcement player who has given the Yankees more than expected. He does come with a reputation of having a great eye while also hitting more then 20 home runs in Triple-A this season, but putting it all together for the Yankees has been a huge step for the 27-year old recently considered a Quad-A baseball player.
Let’s put Ford’s production at first base into perspective. Considering all 30 clubs in the major leagues, Ford has a better wRC+ mark (121) than two thirds of the league. Additionally, there are 12 teams having under league average production at first base while the Royals are in last place with a wRC+ of 59. The case can be made that Ford might just be going through a hot streak. However, when you look around and see that there are still some teams struggling to find first base help, you notice that Ford can survive as a starter in the majors. His ceiling might not be as high as Gleyber Torres’ but his floor is no where near a wRC+ of 59.
The first reason you can expect Ford to be an above average player if given the chance on another team — assuming a trade— is because of his plate discipline. Out of all Yankees with more than 100 plate appearances, Ford has the second lowest O-swing% behind Mike Tauchman. Secondly, his contact ability has been tops on the team with only Brett Gardner and DJ LeMahieu generating multiple percentage points in front of him. After acknowledging that those are two of the best contact hitters on the roster it speaks volumes for Ford’s skill to put the bat on ball.
Secondly, the difference between these previously mentioned hitters and Ford is purely the power. Ford currently has the highest isolated power mark of all Yankees. We can chalk that up to sample size but overall the numbers are encouraging. His average exit velocity is 92.2 mph according to Statcast, which is about five mph more than the average player. Not only is he hitting the ball harder than most, Ford has the third lowest groundball rate on the team. The combination of plate discipline, contact skill, power, and ability to keep the ball off the ground has made all the difference in August for Ford compared to when he was first called-up in late April.
When players are promoted from the minor leagues you want to see nothing but success. Of course there will be some struggles along the way, but you hope they are able to add to what a team is already doing rather than subtract. After making his professional debut in 2013, having played six years in the minor leagues, being selected by the Seattle Mariners during the Rule 5 draft just to be sent back, Ford has had a long journey. Now in 2019, he is playing just about the best baseball of his life, and because of the immense depth in the Yankees’ organization Ford can’t be a starter.
Nevertheless, this is a great problem for the Yankees to have. Even though he will soon see his playing time decrease, we cannot forget Ford has done enough to prove to fans and other organizations that he is a major-league talent. He might not be a starter on the Yankees, but he has shown the skills to be a starter where ever else needed.