SEATTLE -- Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter hinted at it earlier this week, and sure enough, Seattle broke from its strategic trend under the Jerry Dipoto era and selected high school catcher Harry Ford with their first-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft on Sunday. The 18-year-old was taken out of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Ga., with the No. 12 overall selection.
Ford has spent most of his amateur career behind the plate, but the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder has the versatility, athleticism, quickness and arm to move around the diamond or play outfield.
“I’ve played pretty much everywhere on the diamond,” Ford said. “My first position was third base and outfield, and I moved over to catcher a little later. And so I've always kept playing. I didn't get to play as much outfield or infield at North Cobb just because I was kind of needed as a catcher, and so that was my main thing. But I can play anywhere.”
Ford is rated as the No. 13 overall Draft prospect by MLB Pipeline, and the No. 9 position player and the No. 5 high school position player.
The selection of Ford comes after three straight years of drafting college pitchers in the first round: Emerson Hancock, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert. Ford is the Mariners’ first high school player taken in the first round since outfielder Alex Jackson was taken No. 6 overall in 2014, two years before Dipoto arrived.
And Ford is the first catcher that the Mariners have taken in the first round since Mike Zunino with the No. 3 overall pick in 2012. Jackson also played some catcher as an amateur and eventually in the Mariners’ system, but he was listed as an outfielder for the Draft.
Ford, who is repped by Boras Corp., committed to Georgia Tech in August 2019, but the Mariners are confident in his sign-ability. Slot value for the pick is $4,366,400.
“We had a lot of candid conversations probably the week leading up to the Draft and how this would fit,” Hunter said. “And I do think when I was talking to Harry as soon as we drafted him, picking up the phone -- no disrespect to Georgia Tech -- I think he's got his Mariners gear already on and ready to go.”
So, who is Ford, what does he bring, how does he fit and why are the Mariners so thrilled with their pick?
Let’s start with a fun story: Dipoto was so intrigued with Ford that he took a cross-country flight to Atlanta to see him in person two weeks ago. Blocking out the jitters hitting for a Major League GM, Ford wrapped a donut around his bat and began taking cut after cut, a practice pioneered by Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez. But it was former Mariner Nelson Cruz who inspired the tactic for Ford.
“I watched him hit all the time,” Ford said of Cruz. “I watch his trainers page and I watch what he does over there. And I see he always uses one-hand bats and he always has a weight on his bat when he’s hitting. And one day, it was always on my mind, but some guy in my school, he had one and he gave to me and I started using it, and I went like 3-for-3 that day, so I just haven’t stopped using it.”
Ford is also a gym rat who began training at Fury Sports Performance in Woodstock, Ga., in seventh grade.
“I love lifting,” Ford said. “I always say, ‘If baseball doesn't work out, I'm opening my own gym,’ because I just take working out very seriously, and it's always been one of my passions and one of my favorite things to do.”
Asked for a player comparison, Hunter likened Ford to former catcher Russell Martin, a 5-foot-10, 215-pounder who played 14 years in the big leagues, hit 191 homers and was a four-time All-Star. Ford grew up a Braves fan and called Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward some of his favorite players, but he said that he thinks his swing looks more like Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ford comes from a talent-rich state that has produced four first-rounders in the past seven Drafts, along with Max Pentecost, Tyler Stephenson, Anthony Seigler and Joey Bart.
Ford features some of the best bat speed in the high school class and has a track record of making loud contact against quality pitching, though he sometimes tries to do too much at the plate, per MLB Pipeline scouting reports. He's also strong and has good leverage in his right-handed swing, so he has all of the ingredients to have average or better power. And behind the plate, Ford has been described as quick and agile, and he’s stood out as a receiver while handling premium stuff on the showcase circuit.
The Mariners are happy that they got their guy.