2013 Top Prospects #10: Anthony Alford
Despite ranking just 10th in the system this outfielder has the highest ceiling of any position prospect in the system, but his ranking is held back by an unfortunate commitment to another sport.
Anthony Alford playing for his high school baseball team (Image courtesy PerfectGame.org)
Name: Anthony Alford
Date of Birth: 7/20/94 (18)
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: 6’2”/210 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list (not in system)
- 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
18 AB, .167/.250/.333 (.583 OPS), 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 4 SB, 2/4 BB/K
After shocking the baseball world and agreeing to terms with the Blue Jays on a split contract, Alford played in just five games with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays before heading off to Southern Miss. Even with such a small sample, Alford managed to flash some of the potential tools that have scouts dreaming on his baseball future. When you exclude his home run, Alford reached base four times; with two singles and two walks. He still managed to steal four bases, which gives a glimpse of how much of a dynamic impact he can have on a game. Unfortunately, Alford is still holding football in his heart, and until he lets it go, all Blue Jays fans are going to see are flashes and glimpses.
57/127 (44.9%), 664 YDS, 2 TD, 4 INT; 105 carries, 329 YDS (3.1 Y/C), 6 TD
I’ve included Anthony’s Southern Miss. numbers in the 2012 statistics and analysis section, and if you’re not particularly familiar with football, let me explain the above line – it’s not very good. Just as he’s a dual threat on the baseball diamond, he both throws and runs the ball from the quarterback position. Alford’s throwing numbers were awful – a 44.9% completion rate with just two touchdowns against four interceptions. He wasn’t much better on the ground, either, as despite scoring six touchdowns with his legs, he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. Freshman quarterbacks are rarely starters, and when they are, expectations are usually low. Even so, it’s hard to be anything but disappointed with Alford’s results, particularly when you consider he led his team to a 0-12 record.
Video (via Baseball Factory TV)
Anthony Alford has one of the prettiest right handed swings I’ve seen on a high school prospect. His athleticism really shines through, as everything is done with fluidity and it all looks very smooth and natural. Alford faces the pitcher with an open stance and very high hands. As he prepares his swing, he taps his lead foot, keeps his front shoulder closed, then explodes through the ball with a short stroke and electric bat speed thanks to his quick-twitch muscles. His weight transfer is good and he rotates his hips well, though Alford does have a bit of an uppercut in his swing. Perfect Game lauds his very strong hands, as well as his ability to generate power to right-center as opposed to exclusively the pull field. The Perfect Game scouts also came away very impressed with his hand-eye coordination, and suggest that while he’ll need to alter the plane of his swing to keep the bat in the zone longer, he has the requisite vision to make the adjustments. Alford has a surprisingly advanced plate approach for someone whose sole focus hasn’t been the game of baseball.
Alford is a true five-tool talent, as he projects to be above average or better in three tools, and average in the other two. His premier tool is his speed, as both Baseball America and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com have rated him as a 70 runner at present. Baseball players are typically timed in the 60 yard dash, and while Perfect Game doesn’t have an official time for Alford in that event, they did offer up his 40 yard dash time – the speed gauge for football prospects. Alford was clocked at 4.45 seconds, which is game-changing speed. For a player of his size (6’2”, 210 pounds), NFL teams typically like to see their running backs and wide receivers run sub-4.50 times. Of the 38 running backs invited to the recently concluded 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, Alford’s time would have ranked third best.
Power is another big part of Alford’s game, as he has tremendous bat speed and a strong, running back-like physique. While his overall rawness limits its current in-game manifestation, the tool projects to be plus down the line. Perfect Game goes as far as to suggest Alford could develop into a 30/30 player, which would obviously be outstanding outcome. Hitting and contact ability are the weakest aspects of Alford’s toolset, and are the biggest question marks moving forward. He has the athleticism and the swing to be an average hitter, but the hit tool is difficult enough to develop when your sole focus is baseball, let alone when you take six months away from the sport every year. Unless he gives up on football, it’s difficult to see Alford making the transition from athlete to baseball player and fully developing his offensive approach.
In the American high school ranks there’s a lot of crossover between football and baseball, as often times quarterbacks with an outstanding arm will find themselves working off a pitching mound as well. That’s not the case with Alford, as despite playing the quarterback position he doesn’t have the throwing mechanics or arm strength of a traditional pocket passer, he instead runs an option offense. Both Perfect Game and MLB.com grade the tool out as average, but it should be more than sufficient in centerfield. Alford’s athleticism gives him the opportunity to be a plus defender in center, but there are a number of adjustments and improvements he must make to achieve that goal. His reads are very hit and miss, as often times he’ll take a step in then turn and run for a ball heading over his head, or vise versa. Alford also needs to better set up his throws, as he has a tendency to wait back on balls as opposed to charging and getting momentum behind them.
The perfect world projection for Anthony Alford is an All Star centerfielder, with a play style similar to that of B.J. Upton or Grady Sizemore.
2013 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 the system. Unfortunately, he also carries the greatest risk. The split contract allowing Alford to play college football got him signed, but the baseball community as a whole questions just how far he’ll fall behind on the development curve with so much of his time away from the diamond. The situation was muddied ever further this past fall, as Alford was arrested on the Southern Miss. campus, was released from his scholarship to the school, and then transferred to Ole Miss. From my understanding, the way college football works is that if a player transfers schools, he’s ineligible to play in games the next season. Whether or not that helps the Blue Jays is up for debate, but it’s another twist in an already complicated situation.
In terms of a possible assignment, I’m really not sure where Alford will start the 2013 season. He missed fall instructs because of football, so you almost have to assume the organization will want to hold him back in extended spring training so they can keep a close eye on his development for a few extra months. At the same time, they only have Alford for so long every year, so perhaps they want to maximize his game exposure and assign him to full season ball. Bluefield, Vancouver, and Lansing are all realistic scenarios, and as of yet the Blue Jays haven’t revealed their hand regarding their plans for the talented centerfielder.