Our final honourable mention before beginning the Jays Journal top prospect list proper is also our largest dropper, having clocked in at number ten for 2013. The frustrating thing about two sport star Anthony Alford is that the fall wasn’t predicated by his play. That wouldn’t be hard to take. Prospects rise and fall based on performance all the time. Unfortunately for the right-handed hitting outfielder and red shirting defensive back, his stock is falling simply because he isn’t playing.
Name: Anthony Alford
Date of Birth: 20/07/94 (19)
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft ($750,000 USD)
High School: Petal High School (Petal, Mississippi)
College: Football scholarship to Southern Miss., transferred after freshman year to Ole Miss.
Height/Weight: 6’1”/205 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked #10 on 2013 Top 30 prospects list
- 2012 Rawlings 2nd Team All American
- 2012 Southeast Region 1st Team
- Rated by Baseball America as the Best Athlete in the Blue Jays system (2013)
2012 Statistics and Analysis
Post-draft, the Jays were given virtually no chance of signing Alford based on his strong commitment and desire to play football
for the University of Southern Mississippi. This article gives a feel for what most pundits thought of the pick (while also providing a compelling argument against the slot system as baseball battles football for prep prospects). Anthopoulos and co., however, took advantage of a loophole that allowed college athletes to sign pro contracts provided it was in a different sport and inked Alford to a well over-slot bonus of 750k.
The agreement means the Jays only get Alford for extended spring training and a hand-full of short season games before he is due back to school for pre-season training.
It’s impossible to get your hands on extended numbers so the tiny GCL sample above is all we have. At least he improved in year two going from a .583 OPS to .823 but really we’re only talking about five hits versus three and three extra base knocks versus one. His K% was steady (albeit a bit high) while he improved his plate discipline going from a 10% to 20% walk rate.
Surprisingly, he attempted fewer stolen bases as it is his plus speed which really sets him apart from other athletes at this level.
57/127 (44.9%), 664 YDS, 2 TD, 4 INT; 105 carries, 329 YDS (3.1 Y/C), 6 TD
The line above is Anthony’s statistics as a freshman quarterback at Southern Mississippi. Now, you don’t need to be a football expert to see that he didn’t have a particularly great season. I did try to read a bit about what happened and there did seem to be some mitigating circumstances with injuries, but I think it’s quite telling that he has changed positions along with schools after his one season at USM.
There is no doubting Alford’s tools. He is still the best athlete in the Jays system and given their recent track record of drafting high upside athletes, that’s saying something. His arm is average at best but his aforementioned dynamic speed means he’ll cover a lot of ground in center. Will look at his swing in a bit more depth below, but his short stroke and strong hands should mean he would hit for both power and average.
The video linked above is from his high school days so may be dated somewhat, but given the fluidity of his actions (and short timeframe they have with him each year), I doubt the Jays would have tinkered all that much. He faces the pitcher with an open stance before giving a light foot tap in his load. His hands and elbow starts high which allows his head (and eyes) to remain on the same plane throughout. His lower half looks exceptionally strong and he uses that strength to his advantage as his back leg and hips both rotate well allowing his hands to explode through the ball. His plus bat speed, strong hands, and powerful torso allows him to generate power to all fields. The only quibble I have with the swing in the video is the slight uppercut to his plane. The Jays may have worked with him on keeping the bat through the zone longer.
Surprisingly, for a football quarterback, it’s Alford’s arm that is his weakest tool. That being said, he was never really a pocket passer but more of a read option type player and as mentioned above, he is no longer a quarterback anyway. The other tools all grade out as above average.
I had the opportunity to speak to a few Vancouver Canadians players this past season about Alford and they all were effusive in their praise of him, with the word ‘freak’ used most often. Everyone I spoke to said that if he were to concentrate full-time on baseball he would be in the bigs within three years. Of course, he doesn’t focus exclusively on baseball and his fellow players are generally not scouts.
This article by J.J. Cooper at Baseball America provides a far more sobering assessment of Alford’s chances of baseball success including some comparables. I think the quote ‘The track record of baseball success for players who split time between pro baseball and college football is not a good one. Actually it’s terrible.’ is the money shot.
Dreaming of a potential 30/30 centerfielder in the mode of a healthy Grady Sizemore is one thing. Having Alford focus on and commit to the grind of minor league baseball is quite another.
2014 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
As a potential All Star at a premium defensive position, Alford has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in what is a deep system. Unfortunately, and this was confirmed in my conversations with his extended spring training roommate, his first love is football. Baseball is more of a hobby simply because he is very good at it. The initial plan was to give himself three years to see if he had an opportunity to play pro football. That would have left him behind the baseball curve already. Mix in the fact he is currently red-shirting after his transfer to Ole Miss and you are now looking at four years of abbreviated baseball seasons.
Which is exactly why I’m writing about him as an honourable mention. Baseball is a very difficult game and it takes both a special talent and person to make their way through the minor league levels and achieve success in the big leagues. Without regular reps, there is just no way that Alford can get there.
So what do the Jays do with him next year? Another stint in the complex league doesn’t seem worthwhile but would management want to keep in extended for more intense coaching? Or send him to Lansing in order to get him 150 or so at bats before he goes back to school?
I’m leaning towards the Lugnuts. From what I can gather, Alford and fellow Mississippi native D.J. Davis are very close so the Jays may opt to keep them together, with the added benefit of seeing what they could do in the same outfield and at the top of a batting order.
If they do keep him in extended then it’s possible he comes to Vancouver for a few games. The Northwest League is the landing spot for drafted college players. Once Alford heads back to Ole Miss then one of the 2014 draftees will slot in to replace him.
The 2012 draft is proving to have been quite productive for the Jays with five of the first six picks ranked in our top fifteen. I suppose that softens the blow somewhat that the seventh pick could very well have been an expensive mistake.
Doesn’t mean I don’t have all my appendages crossed for a Vancouver assignment.