An in Depth Look at Pittsburgh Pirates Pitching Prospect Grant Ford
By Cody Potanko
In today’s Pittsburgh Pirates prospect profile we will discuss the curious case of 2019 5th round draft pick, pitcher Grant Ford
In the 2019 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates added a lot of intriguing pitching prospects to their farm system. This included the team drafting three pitchers with their first seven picks. Those included highly touted arms such as Quinn Priester, J.C. Flowers, and the subject for today’s piece Grant Ford.
Ford is another hard throwing righty standing 6-foot-1 and checking in 175 pounds. Before being drafted by Pittsburgh, Ford spent three years at the University of Nevada. With the Wolf Pack, he was used primarily as a bullpen arm.
Ford did not find much success in his freshman year pitching in 57.1 innings, allowing 67 hits, posting a 1.52 WHIP, and a 7.53 ERA. It’s not uncommon for young 18-19 year old kids to struggle their first year in college ball. In fact, the majority of college kids I have covered have had the same woes and similar numbers.
In Ford’s sophomore year, he struggled again. Although he did pitch fewer innings, and in three less games, his numbers ballooned. In 32 innings pitched, he allowed 29 hits, 31 walks, 2.25 WHIP, and an 8.16 ERA. As crazy as this sounds, there were some bright spots in an overall poor season. He gave up only one home run as compared to the 10 he gave up in the previous year, and he also struck out 41 batters, which was an improvement over the 30 strikeouts he recorded as a freshman.
Ford had started six out of the 43 appearances he had made entering his junior year, that was the the season he was strictly used in the bullpen. This time around, he much improved. In 45.2 innings pitched, he allowed 32 hits, struck out 41 batters, and he posted a 0.99 WHIP. All of this led to him posting a 2.97 ERA. Whatever was in the water Ford must have drank because he was a completely different pitcher with confidence and using that 94-97 MPH fastball to his advantage.
Now to the draft, some experts said the Pittsburgh Pirates wasted their 5th round draft choice on Ford with him not being a top tier pitcher. However, you ca not always rely on the rankings. With a really good fastball and a sweeping mid-80s slider, Ford found himself on the short-season West Virginia Black Bears squad, where he enjoyed a pretty good season.
With the Black Bears, Ford pitched in 11 games, eight of which were starts. He pitched in 36.1 innings in his first year in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. As a whole, the 22-year-old enjoyed a good season with a 3.77 xFIP and only two homers against runs allowed.
In the advanced department, Ford had some numbers you like to see from a starter. Other than the two homers given up, Ford kept the ball down for the most part with a 55.6% ground ball rate. He pounded the strike zone throwing 64% of his pitches for strikes. Another promising sign was a low hard hit rate, with just 17 line drives given up or 17.2%.
As a starter, batters amassed a .262/.331/.374 slash against Ford and an OPS of .704. When he started, Ford posted an ERA of 2.83.
In the 35 batters he faced as a reliever, they hit .154/.371/.154 slash line, .525 OPS, and Ford posted an ERA of 3.52. The reasoning behind his higher ERA as a reliever is due to his first appearance as a professional when he pitched 1.2 innings and he surrendered 3 runs. The most promising sign from Ford for me was his situational splits. With runners on base, opponents only hit .224/.299/.328 against the righty.
Now I’m under the impression Ford is deserving of a promotion. Now whether it’s up to Bradenton or somewhere else, I think he needs to better competition to face. Will he be a starter that is the bigger question I will leave that up to you guys, what do you think?