Anthony Alford’s season hasn’t gone as planned since entering the year as the Toronto Blue Jays top position prospect.
The way in which a prospect’s season ends is more important than how it begins, however, and the 22-year-old Mississippi native has equalled his high expectations since returning to full health.
Alford was injured in the first game of the season, missed just over three weeks, and hit the disabled list for another short stint in early June. The former college football player is still new to baseball and the pro game (relative to players his age), so missed reps are critical.
Through his first 40 games, which brought him through those two injuries and up to the end of June, Alford hit .204 with a .597 OPS and two home runs. Still not at 100%, he stole just five bases in eight attempts.
Since then, it’s been a different story entirely.
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Beginning on July 1st — which chops his season nearly down the middle — Alford has hit .288 in his last 41 games. His plate approach has also looked much stronger with 42 strikeouts compared to 26 walks, good for a .389 on-base percentage. That on-base tool will be critical to watch when Alford is eventually challenged with more advanced pitchers at the double-A level.
His power has also spiked since Canada Day, with seven home runs pushing his OPS to .902. On the bases, he is 9-for-11 in attempted steals.
Fellow top prospect Richard Urena has made the jump from advanced-A Dunedin to double-A New Hampshire successfully. That was a reasonable goal for Alford prior to the slow start, and New Hampshire has become a prospect hotbed recently with Rowdy Tellez and the additions of Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez.
Expect the Blue Jays to continue exercising patience with Alford, much like they have with Dalton Pompey at the triple-A level this season. Alongside Ramirez, Pompey, and Pillar, who is under team control until 2021, Alford has plenty of time to carry on this strong second half and continue his advancement through the system in 2017.