Walter Ford, a two-way prep star from Florida, was one of the top players in the 2023 prep class. But after shining on the summer showcase circuit against players a year older than him, Ford made a significant decision regarding his future.
He reclassified to the 2022 class, speeding up his timeline to either starting a professional career or honoring his commitment to the University of Alabama.
To reclassify, Ford had to move from Hoover, Alabama, back to Pace, Florida, where he lived for about five years before he relocated to Alabama after his freshman year of high school in 2020.
“I really shined on the field and was responsible off the field as well,” Ford said. “We talked about the pros and cons about it, and my parents gave me the choice. It was a big decision for me, but it also was an easy decision. I just fell in love with playing the game at that level and speed. I wanted to get there quicker, whether it was pro ball or Alabama.”
Reclassifying has put Ford towards the top of the 2022 MLB draft rankings. Scouts consider Ford, a right-handed pitcher and third baseman, a potential first-round pick in this year’s draft.
Ford profiles best as a right-handed pitcher in pro ball due to his power repertoire and overall potential on the mound. If he excels during his senior season this spring, he will solidify himself as an early pick in the draft.
“It’s pretty cool,” Ford said. “There are a lot of people out there who dream of being in the situation I am in. I am very grateful for what is going on in my life.”
Ford is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, slider and changeup from an over-the-top arm slot and repeatable delivery.
Ford relies heavily on his four-seam fastball, slider combination. He pitches well off both offerings and isn’t afraid to attack hitters with each pitch.
His fastball is his best pitch, as it’s an above-average offering that sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 mph. Due to his simple and low-effort mechanics, scouts believe Ford has room to add velocity to his fastball as he matures.
Ford’s slider serves as his strikeout pitch. It generates plenty of swings and misses and is a reliable pitch for Ford.
“I am an aggressive pitcher,” Ford said. “Of course, as a starter, the goal is to throw the least amount of pitches. If I can be as aggressive as I am, I can keep my pitch count down and go longer. My competitiveness is also a big thing. I don’t want to lose.”
In the summer, Ford competed with the USA Baseball 18U National Team. Besides playing against quality competition, he worked with pitching coach Brad Penny, who played 14 years in the major leagues.
The experience to learn from a former two-time All-Star was invaluable. Penny assisted Ford with his changeup, helping him refine the pitch to serve as a valuable offering moving forward.
“I dialed it in well,” Ford said. “It is not a pitch problem anymore. It’s now a confidence thing. Going through my program and as I have ramped it back up, I have thrown a lot of changeups to get confidence in the feel for it.”
Besides having the option to turn pro out of high school, Ford also is an Alabama commit. Alabama recruited Ford as a two-way player, envisioning him as a third baseman and closer and eventually a starting pitcher, he said.
Ford’s admiration for Alabama coach Brad Bohannon played a role in his commitment. He also believes Alabama is a program on the rise.
“When I was a lot younger, I remember watching coach Bo at Auburn,” Ford said. “When he got the head coaching job at Alabama, I was super excited because I knew he was going to turn around the program. He’s a great coach and a great guy in general. He’s done a great job of changing the culture and the way Alabama plays baseball.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.