The youngest prospect in this draft class at 17 years old, Walter Ford reclassified for the 2022 MLB Draft after a good summer with USA Baseball last year. While he is a two-way player and has some solid skills as a hitter and third baseman, the Alabama commit’s future is on the mound. Ford worked with former major league pitcher Brad Penny and reaped the benefits as he improved his stuff on the hill. He felt so confident in himself to graduate early after returning to Pace High School following two years at Hoover High School in Alabama.
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Walter Ford, RHP, Pace (FL)
Weight: 198 lbs.
2022: 13 G, 12 GS, 1.00 ERA, 10-2, 126 K, 30 BB
Ford helped Hoover baseball get to the state title game in 2021 while holding a 1.85 ERA. He was selected to play for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team as one of the few underclassmen on the squad. The 17-year-old showed off a lot of his premium raw stuff over the summer and into his senior year. He has the potential to be drafted early on in the draft and could be picked on day one on Sunday night. Ford has been committed to Alabama since the age of 14.
Ford works with a three-pitch mix, led by his fastball sitting comfortably in the low-90s and up as high as 96-97 mph. He also adds some two-seam action on his fastball at times and consistently finds his targets with good riding action. The next pitch that is a great combination with the fastball is his high-70s-to-low-80s slider that frequently leads to whiffs and a lot of weak contact. Ford also has a changeup but hasn’t used it much. Though scouts do believe he can develop it into at least an average offering with increased usage. There is a lot to like about his pitch arsenal and the increased velocity is a big reason.
With his young age, Ford lacks the experience of other pitchers in this draft and there hasn’t been much to go off on to evaluate him. There will certainly be a learning curve to start his next step in his career, whether that be for Alabama or in the minor leagues. The competition will be the toughest he has ever faced and will only get tougher as he rises through the ranks. The age difference will put him through some difficult times mentally and physically as he adjusts. Along with that, there are times that Ford can over-pitch and have trouble repeating his delivery.
Pro Comparison: Carlos Rodon
Although not as sought after a prospect coming out of high school, Rodon wound up as the third overall pick in the 2014 draft after attending North Carolina State. The San Francisco Giants’ left-hander works with the same pitch arsenal as Ford, and his changeup was also a work in progress coming out. He has developed into one of the better pitchers in the league. With his stuff, Ford can have a similar path as it will take him some time to develop as well. His slider can be devastating to go along with his solid fastball.
Draft Projection: Early Second Round
Depending on his signability, Ford can go even earlier and possibly sneak into the first round. But with the weaker pitching class than normal, one would believe that a team at least in the early second round will take a shot on his raw talent. Getting him to sign might not be as difficult as he seems set on going pro after graduating early to prepare for the draft.
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Main Image Credit: From Santa Rosa’s Press Gazette