With other MLB teams scouting the Blue Jays minor league system heading into the Trade Deadline, many will be evaluating several minor league players. Their value will be leveraged to obtain possible pitching help. So, I wanted to check in on one player who has been putting together a rather pleasant season. Anthony Alford was chosen out of high school in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. Then, he was committed to play football at Ole Miss. He has since chosen baseball and has not looked back.
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In our 2015 Blue Jays Top Prospect rankings, Alford came in at #15. This came after he’d played only a total of 14 games in professional baseball. He also took the trip to Australia to get more playing time in order to catch up on the at bats he’d missed while focusing on football. He didn’t exactly light it up there, either. In fact, it was this underwhelming performance that had me wondering if he would live up to the 5 tool, raw talent that he possesses.
Alford started the 2015 season in Lansing (A) and has been proving me wrong ever since. In 50 games for the Lugnuts, he put together a line of .293/.418/.394 with 14 doubles a home run and 12 stolen bases. What stands out for me is the 39 walks. The patience at the plate was something that wasn’t evident in Australia. Now, he did strike out 60 times in Lansing, but he’s since worked on improving that. It seemed that every game highlight, or update tweet included Alford’s name in it. He started to develop a name for himself in leading the Lugnuts. He was playing exciting baseball with his speed.
So much so, that he earned a promotion to Dunedin (A+). And, how would he respond to the challenge? Oh, you know. Only scoring 49 runs in 50 games, slashing .333/.395/.480 and stealing 6 bases. And how about his strike out rate going down from 25.9% to 16.7% with the promotion. In Lansing, he put up a wRC+ of 144 and has bested it in Dunedin with a 167 mark. On the defensive side of the ball, he’s put up a 962 fielding percentage that includes 7 errors. This is to be expected from a guy who is basically still learning his position. BaseballReference.com lists his RF/G (Range Factor per Game: Putouts and Assists per Game) at 2.46 in 2015 with a 2.88 mark in Dunedin.
All of this is a pleasant surprise for a guy who is in his first season of professional baseball. Some will say it isn’t that surprising since he showed all the sings of a 5 tool player. Surprise or no, Alford has certainly done a lot to increase his prospect value. He will have certainly climbed our list. Has he caught the eye of other teams? Will they be looking to Alford as a possible trade piece?
Toronto Blue Jays
Another interesting question is whether he has caught the eye of the Blue Jays themselves. By that I don’t mean do they know what he’s been doing. Of course they do. What I’m wondering is if Alford’s success has altered the club’s plans for Dalton Pompey at all. Pompey himself rocketed through the Blue Jays system last season. His climb was so emphatic that they started the season with him as the Opening Day CF. That didn’t work out and Pompey struggled his way to a demotion. Eventually, the demotion sent him all the way down to AA New Hampshire. While Alford was going up, Pompey was going down.
Since then, Pompey has turned things around after tearing it up in AA. He’s back in AAA and doing well. But, as an outfield stock piece, has Alford shortened the gap between the two? With Alford looking like he will stick in the outfield (particularly at center) and Pompey shifting over to LF, are the Blue Jays thinking ahead? Could we be seeing this outfield in Toronto in a year or two? A more pressing questions is just how much more value Dalton Pompey presents over Anthony Alford, whether it be for the Blue Jays or another organization. Remember that one organization’s system lines up a certain way and Alford (or Pompey for that matter) could be higher in their system than that of the Blue Jays.
Regardless of whether this “trade piece” conversation is even relevant, the fact is that Dalton Pompey’s value has taken a bit of a hit this year while Alford’s has risen exponentially. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Alford sees time at AA or even AAA by the end of the season. Heck, if the Blue Jays are out of it in September, he could get his first look at Rogers Centre too. Realistically, Alford will end the season in AA. But, if we’ve learned anything from this past year, the sky just might be the limit for Alford.