Walter Ford Reclassifies For The 2022 MLB Draft
Walter Ford, a two-way player ranked as Baseball America's No. 7 player in the 2023 high school class, is reclassifying to be eligible for the 2022 draft.
Ford is a 16-year-old righthander and third baseman who spent the 2021 spring season at Hoover High in Alabama. He is in the process of moving back to Pace, Fla., where he grew up and lived until his family moved to Alabama in March 2020. Ford will attend a private accelerated virtual school in Florida to get his high school diploma and will play baseball in the spring for Pace High, reuniting him with former teammates for the school he attended as a freshman.
"After being able to be blessed enough to get invited to the upperclass events, playing up against the best competition for high school, being able to prove myself and handle it, as a family we sat down and talked," Ford said. "We felt like I was ready to play at the next level, whatever level that may be. We felt i was ready for it."
Ford had an outstanding start to his summer at the Perfect Game Junior National showcase in June in Georgia, where he showed big power in batting practice, homered in the game and looked electric in his one scoreless inning on the mound by sitting at 95-96 mph and touching 97.
As the summer progressed, Ford's ability on the mound in particular stood out. At 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, Ford has typically pitched at 90-95 mph, a big fastball for his age with the arm speed and physical projection left where he could throw harder, potentially into the triple digits. Pitching from a high three-quarters arm slot, Ford also throws a sharp slider that flashes plus potential with late tilt to miss bats. As a hitter, Ford had some of the best raw power in the 2023 class, albeit with some swing and miss, but he generally performed well in games and projects best defensively at third base.
An Alabama commit, Ford was one of the few underclassmen at the East Coast Pro showcase in Hoover in early August. Right after that event, he pitched for USA Baseball's 16U/17U National Team Development Program in North Carolina, where he threw three shutout innings with four strikeouts, no walks and one hit (which didn't leave the infield) allowed while pitching at 93-95 mph.
That showing earned Ford a spot on USA Baseball's 18U national team trials roster. It was then, Ford said, that he started to give serious thought to reclassifying.
"Making the trials team was a really big thing, he said. "It was out of the blue. I wasn't really expecting to make it at all."
During the national team trials in Sarasota, Fla. at the end of August, Ford pitched against some of the top 2022 hitters in the country and threw three more scoreless innings with three strikeouts and no walks. That earned him a spot on the final 18U national team, where Ford was one of the few underclassmen on the team and pitched three more shutout innings against Canada with four strikeouts, two walks and no hits allowed.
"It was awesome," Ford said. "I enjoyed it so much. Being able to put USA across my chest, to compete and show out a bit, it was an experience I will never forget in my life. Putting on that jersey against Canada, it was indescribable. Every day I look back on it and think, 'Man, I wish I could get one more day in the uniform like that.' "
His most recent outing came on Sept. 25 at the Baseball Factory All-America Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. After a long spring and summer, Ford is shutting things down to take time off and get ready for the 2022 season, when scouts will get a chance to more carefully evaluate him both on the mound and as a position player.
"Right now, I still want to be an athlete," Ford said. "Even though I’ve reclassed, Alabama extended me an offer, and I know Alabama still wants me to hit and pitch, so I’m still getting ready for that. I still want to be an athlete. I love the game and I want to play the game every day."
Ford follows Georgia third baseman Cam Collier as the second player who had ranked among BA's top 10 players in the 2023 class to reclassify for the 2022 draft. Other notable players from recent draft classes who reclassified include Cubs infielder James Triantos (second round in 2021, signed for $2.1 million), Rays righthander Nick Bitsko (first round in 2020, signed for $3 million), Red Sox third baseman Blaze Jordan (third round in 2020, signed for $1.75 million) and Cardinals outfielder Trejyn Fletcher (second round in 2019, signed for $1.5 million).