For the first time under Jerry Dipoto’s tenure as GM, the Mariners made a Rule 5 draft selection, and it is a good one: Mike Ford, 1B for the Yankees’ Triple-A club. Ford, a two-time All-American at Princeton who was the Ivy League player AND pitcher of the year in 2013, is a 25-year-old lefty hitter who has never put up a wRC+ of less than 120 in one of his full seasons in the minors. He walks more than he strikes out, and he crushed the International League this year between Double-A and Triple-A, slugging 20 home runs between the two levels. The downside to Ford is he doesn’t offer a lot of positional flexibility, which has helped keep him blocked in the Yankees system. We’ve been advocating getting Mike Ford somehow in trade from the Yankees, even including him in the minors section of the off-season plan, since he fits a unique need for Seattle. This probably isn’t great news for one large adult son in the organization as far as advancement opportunities go.
The question now is how the Mariners will keep Ford on the 25-man all year, especially with his limited positional flexibility on a club that looks to carry an 8-man pen. It’s not uncommon for Rule 5 picks to get traded, which is always a possibility with Dipoto at the helm, although Ford seems like a good match for the club. For now, at least, Mike Ford is a Seattle Mariner, and the Mariners can get an extended, up-close look at him in Spring Training before they have to set their 25-man roster. This is also good insurance in case Ryon Healy drops an ice chest on his foot or something while working out with the crew in Miami. (Just kidding, please don’t do that Ryon, Iron Glenn protect us.)
Mariners director of scouting Tom Allison on taking 1B Mike Ford: "You start with the player first. You acquire the talent. Bring him in, let that play itself out during spring training."— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) December 14, 2017
If they’re taking a flier, Mike Ford is a pretty good one to take:
I talked to Bobby Mitchell on Sunday about Mike Ford, who was just taken by the Mariners: "I don’t think that any pitcher that goes out there to pitch has any advantage over Mike Ford, ever." You can read his full thoughts here: https://t.co/uHVRqgdu46— Matt Kardos (@mattkardos) December 14, 2017
Here’s Mike Ford hitting four home runs in one game back in 2014, his first year of pro baseball:
And here he is crushing a grand slam last year for the RailRiders:
The Mariners also took two catchers in the minor league portion of the draft, bolstering their paper-thin catching depth: Joe Odom from Atlanta’s Double-A team and Tyler Baker from Arizona’s High-A team. Odom, a former batterymate with Max Povse, is a 25-year-old who posted a 131 wRC+ in High-A in 2016, and a 110 wRC+ in Double-A in 2017. Each year, however, the Braves promoted him aggressively, and he promptly fell on his face at the next level. Odom needs to learn how to take a walk in the upper minors and cut down on his strikeouts some. A quick glance at his Twitter feed reveals a lot of the inspirational-type quotes favored by Andy McKay (“consciously control your thoughts to be positive”), so maybe the Mariners are banking on him being a good fit for them from a developmental standpoint. Also, he has two arms and can catch, so welcome Joe Odom, you are now our number-one catching prospect.
Tyler Baker, a 24-year-old out of Wichita State, hasn’t managed to scrape a wRC+ of 100 yet in the minors, but—you will be shocked to hear—also has a twitter feed littered with quotes from accounts like @MentalBaseball (also he RTed Braden Bishop once so I’m now predisposed to like him). I’m also pleased to report that Baker is the owner of a Very Good Baseball Dog, which is important after we lost Evan Marshall and Butters this off-season.
The Mariners only lost one player during the minor league portion of the Rule 5: Clinton lefty Lane Ratliff. Ratliff is only 22 and throws baseballs with his left hand, making him an appealing target for another team, but has struggled with consistency across the lower minors. After a stellar 2016 in Everett during which he had a 13.65 K/9 with a 2.85 FIP in 30 innings, he posted a 5.33 FIP with an icky 1.5 BB/K. Ratliff will go to the Diamondbacks organization, where he will have the good fortune to work with one of the great coaches in the game in Jeff Bajenaru.