Nothing has been handed to Yankees first baseman Mike Ford as he has worked his way from undrafted free agent in 2013 all the way to his very productive major league debut last season. Along the way Ford has not graced many top-prospect rankings, yet his steady production built on good plate discipline and left-handed power has carried him to the top level of the sport.
Ford’s journey to the major leagues was almost jump-started by the Seattle Mariners when they took him in the Rule-5 draft prior to the 2018 season. Despite a solid spring training where he finished strong the restrictions that come with a Rule-5 selection hampered Ford’s ability to make the team as he had to overcome several players with more major league experience. Now just a few seasons later, their decision to send Ford back to the Yankees has benefitted New York tremendously.
2019 Stats: 163 PA, .259/.350/.559, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 134 wRC+, 17.2 K%, 10.4 BB%, 0.8 fWAR
2020 Depth Charts Projection: 175 PA, .256/.340/.484, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 115 wRC+, 19 K%, 10.5 BB%, 0.6 fWAR
Ford’s solid stat lines through the minor leagues, combined with his outstanding production through major league debut season are major factors in his strong offensive projections for 2020. On his journey through the minor leagues he only struck out 21 more times than he walked, while proving to be a very good on-base and power hitter with a .273/.374/455 line.
Ford was not on the Yankees 40-man roster heading into 2019, but as the Yankees roster succumbed to repeated injuries, he got his call to the major leagues in late-April. His season was highlighted with a big pinch-hit walk-off homer against Oakland that includes the great Tommy Kahnle reaction in the bullpen.
Beyond his production at the major league level, Ford was the best hitter on Triple-A Scranton for much of the season. He led the Triple-A International league with a 1.007 OPS when he was promoted for the final time in early August.
While Ford proved that he can be a force with his bat at the major league level and the projections think that he will again this season, he is going to need help to get significant playing time. Luke Voit has shown that when he is healthy, he is an incredible offensive force capable of carrying a team for extended stretches.
As a left-handed power hitter on a team full of righties, Ford could carve out a role on the Yankees if the team chooses to go with him on the roster. Working in his favor is the introduction of the 26th man to the major league roster this season. Working against Ford is his limited defensive versatility.
Ford played 33 innings at third base last season in the minors, but that was more of a factor of Triple-A roster construction at the time as major league veteran Logan Morrison was manning first base. Ford is a first baseman and a designated hitter, and there are only so many at-bats to go around for someone playing those roles on the Yankees.
Ford will be in a competition for a major league roster spot with the likes of Tyler Wade, Rosell Herrera, and Thairo Estrada, who all offer defensive versatility, and much better speed. Versatility and speed are likely features that the organization will look to for the last position player on the roster.
By joining the Yankees 40-man roster in April, Ford still has two years of minor league options left. While he has made a solid case for making the Yankees based on his production last season, there is a very good chance that he will begin the season with Triple-A Scranton.
Mike Ford was ready when called upon in 2019. After proving he was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues, Ford took advantage of his opportunities to show that his ability to get on-base and hit for power could play at the highest levels. While he may not break camp with the Yankees this coming season, there is a real possibility that he will be called up on again and the Yankees will feel very confident in his ability to produce.