Mariners add lefty-swinging Ford in Rule 5 Draft

First baseman was teammates with Servais' son in college

December 14th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mariners manager Scott Servais won't need introductions when first baseman Mike Ford arrives at Spring Training as the club's new Rule 5 Draft selection out of the Yankees organization.

Servais has closely followed Ford's career after the 25-year-old played with his son, Tyler Servais, for two of his three seasons at Princeton University, where Ford was the Ivy League Player and Pitcher of the Year in 2013 as a two-way player.

Ford, who has developed impressively as a hitter in the Yankees' system after going undrafted out of Princeton, will be given a shot to crack the Mariners' roster this spring after being the 11th player taken in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.

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It's not clear exactly how Ford might fit into the Mariners' picture, given the club just traded for from the A's to handle first-base duties and hopes to go with 13 pitchers much of the season, which limits the idea of a first-base platoon.

But Ford is a left-handed-hitting option to the right-handed Healy and is an intriguing prospect, so the Mariners will take a good look at the youngster and see how things play out. Rule 5 selections must be kept active on the 25-man roster for at least 90 days or be offered back to their original club.

"You start with the players first," Mariners vice president of scouting Tom Allison said. "You acquire the talent, bring him in, and let that kind of play itself out in Spring Training. The offensive left side does have some fits, depending how the bullpen and rest of the position players shake out."

The Mariners had Ford targeted as the one Rule 5-eligible player they were willing to take a risk on and they jumped when he was still available.

Ford split last season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and combined to post a .270/.404/.471 line with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs in 126 games, with 94 walks and 72 strikeouts.

"All he's done is go out offensively, control the zone, swing the bat, both sides versus left and right," Allison said. "One of the things that really attracted us, I'll use an old Pat Gillick line, a lot of times you just scout the player and then acquire the person. This is a guy we know a lot about."

Ford's power has been developing as he's progressed, but he hit four home runs in one game in 2014 for Class A Charleston. Perhaps more impressive to the Mariners is the fact he's walked more times than he's struck out (267 to 245) over five seasons in the Minors.

"One of the things that was always attractive, you look at his college and early Minor League stats, he knows what a strike looks like and is very calm in the box," Allison said.

Two catchers added in Minor League phase

The Mariners moved to shore up their catching depth by selecting Joe Odom from the Braves and Tyler Baker from the D-backs in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 process.

The only player Seattle lost on the day was Lane Ratliff, a 22-year-old left-handed pitcher who went to the D-backs in the Triple-A phase. He pitched mostly for Class A Clinton this past year.

Odom, who turns 26 in January, played just 28 games in the Braves' Minor League system last season after breaking his forearm. Baker, 24, hit .238 with six home runs in 63 games in Class A ball in 2017. Both are regarded as solid defensive backstops with good leadership skills, according to Allison, as the Mariners look to restock after losing several six-year Minor League veteran catchers to free agency and trading prospect David Banuelos to the Twins.