So I’m not sure if you are aware of Mike Ford but he is an underdog that deserves your attention for the upcoming season. The Yankees ZiPS projections were released recently on FanGraphs and Ford’s projected for .257/.340/.481 with 25 home runs, 75 RBI, and 69 runs! That is an impressive line for a player with an ADP of 551 in NFBC Draft Champion Leagues. So who is Mike Ford?
Ford played college ball at Princeton, where he played first base and pitcher. He was the first Ivy League player to be named Player and Pitcher of the year after batting .320 while going 6-0 with a 0.98 ERA. One might call him The Ivy League Ohtani (okay, maybe I only call him that). Surprisingly enough, even with those impressive numbers he went undrafted in the 2012 MLB Draft, only later signing with the Yankees. While in the minors, he never hit for the power of a typical first baseman, but had an impressive eye. If we take a quick look at his minor numbers, we can see a trend. In the five years he was in the minors, he walked more than he struck out. He also displayed great isolated power numbers, mostly due to the amount of line-drive doubles he hits. Some of the best metrics that correlate to major league success are great strikeout and isolated power rates relative to each level and age.
Mike Ford — Power Hitter
Just looking at Ford, you can tell the dude has some legit power. He is a 6 foot, 225 lb left-handed smasher of baseballs. Another feather in Ford’s cap is he is a power hitter with an excellent eye at the plate. His great knowledge of the strike zone is typically not seen in a smasher’s profile. Take a look at this home run off Orioles reliever Ty Blach in August.
Even with a pitch high and tight, Ford whips the bat through the zone to smash the baseball over the wall. There are few batters in the league that can destroy a ball like that, especially where the ball was thrown.
Ford is not just another hitter taking advantage of the short porch in right field of Yankee Stadium.
We see here Ford again take the pitch that was given him and take it the other way and bring in D.J. LeMahieu.
Luke Voit Part Deux?
After a bunch of injuries to the Yankees lineup, Ford was called up after dominating at AAA. Over the course of the 2019 season, he played in 50 games and put up an impressive 134 wRC+! He slashed .259/.350/.559 with 12 home runs with an impressive 8.1 SwStk%
|BB%||K%||SwStk||Exit Velo||EV 95 MPH||Barrels/BBE||xwOBA||xBarrel|
It is pretty amazing how similar these players are.
Now let’s take a look at Ford and Voit’s minor league numbers. First, Luke Voit.
|Level||PA||BB%||K%||Est. FB Dist||AVG||OBP||ISO|
And now, Mike Ford.
|Level||PA||BB%||K%||Est. FB Dist||AVG||OBP||ISO|
Pretty darn similar if you ask me.
In a recent post written by the great Alex Fast, he looked into park effects and barreled baseballs. It’s an amazing piece you can find here, and you should read it if you have not. When Fast looked at which parks are the friendliest to left-handed hitters, it’s no real surprise that he found it to be Yankee Stadium, where pulled home runs had a difference in wOBAcon and xwOBAcon of .897. Simply put, pulled home runs by a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium performed a ton better than they should have performed. This means that left-handed hitters don’t need to barrel the ball as often to right field to still hit a homer in Yankee Stadium. As mentioned above, Ford does in fact barrel up the baseball. In fact, his barrel rate of 9.6% is 3.3 percentage points better than the league average, so Ford is not just another benefactor from a short porch.
Here are all of Ford’s line drives and home runs overlayed on Yankee Stadium dimensions. However, keep in mind that out of Ford’s twelve home runs, ten of them were on the road, so we should expect even more power with more playing time at home this year. Expect to see many bombs like this one in Yankee Stadium this year.
Should We Believe in His Small Sample Size?
In the end, we should always be aware and exercise caution when a relatively unknown player bursts onto the scene and produces well. However, what Ford has shown in his entire professional career is a believable profile. He strikes a great balance between contact hitter and power hitter. With the Yankees lineup limited when it comes to left-handed hitters, you should expect Ford to wallop home runs over the short porch in no time.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis
His numbers look good, and I think he is a good player, but… where is the playing time coming from? Is he supposed to platoon with Voit?
I’m intrigued by Ford as well, but when it comes to ZiPS projections, it’s important to remember that (in Dan Szymborski’s own words) they “are not playing-time predictors. By design, ZiPS has no idea who will actually play in the majors in 2020.” In the Yankees’ case, ZIPS uses 491 PA for Ford and 499 for Voit, which obviously ain’t gonna happen. They give Ford a line of 25-75-.257 and Voit 23-74-.266, so the skills are considered roughly equal. But yeah, playing time is the question – Roster Resources currently projects 392 PA for Voit, 112 for Ford.
Just FWIW, Ariel Cohn’s new ATC projections out today use 483 PA for Voit, 247 for Ford. The increase compared to Roster Resource (not Resources, my bad)/Depth Charts comes from reducing PA for Andujar/Urshela and putting them in more of a timeshare at 3B (RR/DC had 147 PA for Andujar at 1B). Will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.