Mike Ford’s 2022 season included stops in four organizations, including a five-game stay in the majors with the Atlanta Braves. He is a big lefty hitter with some power, but has ultimately struggled to rediscover the brief success he had with the Yankees back in 2019.
Atlanta claimed Ford off waivers from the Seattle Mariners on June 10. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Braves designated infielder Joseph Dunand for assignment.
What were the expectations?
Acquiring Ford was little more than a depth move with the hope that he might be able to supply some left-handed pop either off the bench or in a DH role. Ford had a nice two months as a Yankee in 2019 (1.0 fWAR in 163 PAs, 134 wRC+), but had basically cancelled out that entire fWAR with some horrible play in around 160 PAs over the next two seasons in New York, though each of those two stints had a pretty big xwOBA underperformance. Still, there was little reason to assume he was anything but a warm body for a major league roster.
Ford went to Spring Training with the Mariners, but didn’t make the club and latched on with the Giants. He was traded back to Seattle for cash considerations in May. The Braves claimed him off waivers from Seattle on June 10.
Ford appeared in 14 games at Gwinnett where he was 10-for-42 at the plate with six doubles. He had a couple of stints on the major league roster for the Braves, appearing in five games while going 0-for-7 at the plate with a walk. His most notable appearance for Atlanta came on the mound, where he allowed a walk and a two-run home run in one inning of a 14-4 loss to the Phillies.
Ford was released by the Braves on August 10. He then signed with the Los Angeles Angels six days later and finished the season on their active roster. He appeared in 28 games for the Angels while hitting .231/.293/.374 with four doubles and three home runs.
What went right? What went wrong?
Ford’s season illustrates the life of a journeyman player. He was in four different organizations before getting a decent look with the Angels at the end of the season.
While Ford did essentially nothing in all of eight PAs as a Brave, he actually added a pretty big chunk of WPA in his very first appearance for the club. Facing the Dodgers on June 26 in Atlanta, the Braves trailed 3-2 in extra innings before Matt Olson started the inning by singling home the Manfred-granted runner off Craig Kimbrel. After Austin Riley struck out, Ford pinch-hit for Guillermo Heredia (who came in for Phil Gosselin, who came in for Marcell Ozuna) and worked a seven-pitch PA that resulted in a walk:
In walking, Ford pushed the winning run to second with one out... but the Braves stranded Olson on second and went on to lose 5-3 in 11 innings.
He wasn’t as fortunate a few days later as a pinch-hitter, grounding out against Hunter Strickland to put the Braves within an out of a one-run loss.
Weirdly enough, this was another case where a fringy Braves role player had their worst play of the season bailed out by Michael Harris II, as the latter homered off Hunter Strickland right after Ford’s out to tie the game. (The Braves would nonetheless lose on a walkoff single in the bottom of the inning.)
Also, here’s a clip of Ford giving up a homer, because it’s funny:
Ford will probably be the answer to one of our favorite esoteric trivia questions from this season: which Braves position player fails to appear if you apply the Fangraphs “non-pitcher” filter? In other words, Ford got so few PAs for the Braves that the algorithm treats him as a pitcher thanks to his one bullpen-saving relief appearance, even though he (probably?) isn’t a pitcher.
Ford was granted free agency again in October. Since hitting 12 home runs while posting a 134 wRC+ during a 50 game stint with the Yankees in 2019, Ford has just eight homers and a 64 wRC+ in 101 games over the next three seasons. He will be among the players looking to latch on with someone during the spring, but his winding road is likely to continue. Maybe he could convert to a pitcher and see if that helps his stock any.