It’s June 4, 1987. The MLB Draft is underway and the Houston Astros are on the clock. Scouting Director Dan O’Brien Jr., a former ticket sales rep for the Seattle Mariners, is on the clock, and the pick is very much in. A diminutive catcher from Seton Hall has his eye. Just 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Craig Biggio is headed to The Bayou City.
Now, the likelihood of Kennesaw, Georgia catcher Harry Ford turning into the player Biggio did is unlikely, but not out of the question. Biggio was a compact backstop whose talents ultimately pushed him to second base and centerfield after a stint behind the plate at the beginning of his career.
The reason Biggio is brought up in the first place is Ford could be on a very similar career trajectory.
At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Ford is a powder-keg package of quick-twitch muscle fiber. He’s an extremely impressive athlete and his intrinsic abilities behind the plate are second to none. His explosiveness out of the squat and movement characteristics are fairly unmatched. The entire profile is so impressive, scouts are divided whether to keep his extraordinary abilities behind the plate, or to move them into the field where they could be “better” utilized.
Thus, the “unicorn” label was born.
It’s not just behind the plate though. Ford has one of the better prep bats in the country too. Nobody in the country had more homers in the showcase circuit than Ford did last summer, crushing twelve parking lot shots over fences across a four-month period.
The power is substantial.
As for how it all projects, that’ll be something to track. Ford has a muscled-up, well-proportioned frame. It’s a great body for a future big league catcher.
Tools (Future Value)
Ford can hit, and most would agree. He’s got fast, twitchy hands at the plate that allow him to cover the entire strike zone. His setup is slightly open with low hands and a slightly squatted posture. He’s very quick and direct to the ball. The entire setup is very similar to now-Rangers outfielder Khris Davis. Ford has a mature approach at the plate. He’s not an ambush hitter and he doesn’t chase out of the zone.
Ford’s swing percentage tracked around 33 percent this summer, and when he did swing, he put the ball in the air over 40% of the time. Definitely a profile catered to the pro game.
2021 Harry Ford (GA) continues his very loud 2020 with his 7th HR at a PG event just this year this morning. Averaging a HR every 15 AB ld and XBH every 5th AB pic.twitter.com/yAgCVc6VQJ— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) September 26, 2020
Maybe more impressive, Ford’s ball-in-play distribution wasn’t pull-heavy at all. For a guy his size with his raw power, the ability to let the ball travel and take it into the right-center field gap suggests a mature approach. I have his opposite-field percentage a shade under 40%, though to be fair, that is based on a sample from events that were available to me and not indicative of the summer as a whole.
Ford seems to have reverse-splits at the plate at times, struggling to hit left-handed pitching. That said, it’s an awfully small sample size. He’s got plenty of time and development in front of him before we know what type of hitter he’ll be at the next level.
Given the quick hands, approach, and feel to hit, I’m comfortable projecting an average hitter as a pro.
Ford’s power grades will range anywhere from average to plus by most evaluators. I’ll hedge and say he’s an above power hitter at his peak.
Aside from Ford’s excellent hand and bat speed, his swing as currently constructed produces comfortable, natural loft that has proven to drive and lift the ball in-game, as evidenced by his twelve homers. He’s got a well-timed leg kick and has a natural feel for extending and catching the ball out in front. Simply put, Ford understands how to hit for power.
C Harry Ford with a BOMB off Drew Gray here in the 10th inning. 77mph curveball at the bottom of the zone. Pretty unreal strength. He's really ascended this summer and might be the second-best catcher in the class. Incredibly athlete too. Potential 60 runner/60 power. ⬆️⬆️⬆️ pic.twitter.com/spCfKSQxFZ— Joe (@JoeDoyleMiLB) September 5, 2020
Back at the Perfect Game All-American Classic, Ford registered a peak barrel speed over 80mph. Again, these measurements are recorded in a cage-setting, not in-game. Regardless, that figure ranks in the 99th percentile for his class. Not only that, his impact momentum of 30.34mph (bat speed at contact + bat weight) also ranked in the 99th percentile as well. The kid is strong.
This is where the “unicorn” narrative makes its money. Ford is one of the rare catchers with explosiveness that carries over to the base paths. Currently, he’s comfortably a plus runner, maybe a tick above that even. He’ll wreak havoc on the base paths. The only question is how that will age behind the plate.
Plus runners behind the plate aren’t entirely unprecedented. Biggio, for example, was a fantastic baserunner even during his time behind the plate. J.T. Realmuto had a sprint speed in the 84th percentile in 2020. It wouldn’t be totally new, but there’s no doubting his speed for a catcher would be rare, and a boon to his value at the position.
It should likely come as no surprise Ford has a great arm behind the plate. His athleticism is purely evident in every detail of his game.
Ford has clocked throws from home-to-second in the 85mph range at Perfect Game events. That’s very, very strong, especially for a player his age. Accuracy on his throws can be hit-or-miss, and that’s an aspect of his game he’ll need to improve upon if he’s to ultimately stay behind the plate for the long haul.
This is probably where Ford has the most growing ahead of him. The natural abilities his body affords him should help in the development of his fundamentals behind the plate.
There’s work to be done in the footwork department, as well as blocking balls in the dirt. Those have been warts for Ford over the past six months, but those are issues for most prep catchers if we’re being entirely fair. It’s one of the reasons catchers require so much seasoning at the minor league level.
Ford has never led a pitching staff, nor truly called a game from behind the plate with scouting reports in-hand and intent. These are things he’ll need to learn as well. That’s not a knock on Ford, it’s a statement on the prep catcher demographic (and most college programs) as a whole.
What Ford may lack in polish, he makes up for in grit and effort. He’ll be a good big league catcher if that’s the route his organization sees fit.
The other possibility is Ford shifts to second base, third base, or any outfield spot. He’s plenty capable of handling any of these roles, especially given his arm talent. But question begs: when you have such a supreme, outlier talent at a position, why force him to a position where his tools won’t standout as much?
Harry Ford is an extremely gifted athlete with tools across the board. He’s the rare catcher with immense explosiveness and twitch. It’s a profile you don’t see often.
In 2017, the Mariners drafted Evan White and most scouts and evaluators believed he was talented enough to make an immediate impact in centerfield, or in a corner if the power spiked. Seattle elected to keep him at first base. The result was a gold glove his rookie year.
The same upside exists with Ford. He’s got a long ways to go in developing as a defensive catcher, but with the tools as loud as they are behind the plate, why not ride with it and see what kind of unicorn he can become.