Despite the youth movement with the Blue Jays franchise lately, Anthony Alford has yet to move up to the big leagues and capitalize on the great opportunity.
When the 2018 season began there was a lot of discussion about the top Blue Jays prospects. Some folks were cautiously optimistic that the 2018 season could be a year of contending in Toronto (it wasn’t), but it was universally agreed by nearly all fans of the team that the youth in the minor league system was worth paying attention to.
The list was and is headlined by guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette and others, but it wasn’t long ago that a more advanced minor leaguer was frequently mentioned in the same discussions. These days it seems like we barely hear anything about the talented outfielder they call Anthony Alford.
Back in spring training of this year, he was pretty frequently regarded as the Blue Jays #3 prospect behind Guerrero and Bichette. MLB.com had him third, Baseball America had him 3rd and in the top 100 in baseball, and even we had him just below the dynamic duo back before the season began. As the calendar has progressed the shine has started to wear off his star, as evidenced by the fact that he fell out of the Top 100, and hasn’t made the jump to the big leagues over the summer.
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In the past health has always been what’s held back the former two-sport star, but that hasn’t really been the issue this year. A quick peak at his game log reveals that the only significant chunk of the minor league season he missed was in May, but that’s when he made his brief stop with the big league club. Otherwise he’s played in 107 minor league games, and the seven MLB appearances he made as well, representing a new career high in baseball for the former third round pick.
Unfortunately that consistent playing time hasn’t translated into the results that Alford or the Blue Jays were hoping for. He’s slashed just .230/.306/.331 in 378 at bats, adding five home runs, 34 RBI, 21 doubles, and 16 stolen bases in 24 attempts. Considering many of us (myself included) expected that he could challenge Kevin Pillar for the centre fielder’s job this season, it’s been a disappointment to say the least.
Where does that leave Alford and his future with the Blue Jays? The good news is he’s very young and the club has plenty of opportunity, even if he missed a potential chance to grab a permanent spot this summer. The team is in flux, and right now feels like a bit of an audition for many players, and unfortunately Alford is missing out. It’s possible that he’s among the names recalled once rosters expand in September, but that would be more a result of his having been there before rather than earning it based on his performance this season.
In 2019 and beyond he’ll be looking at battling the likes of Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney, and likely several more for depth status within the organization, and he’ll need to make some big strides soon in order to stay on the radar. Right now Grichuk feels like the only lock for 2019, but even he’s only got two years left on his contract before becoming a free agent, so the opportunity could still be there for him in the near future.
However, the Blue Jays will continue to look for answers, and whether that comes in the form of McKinney, in Hernandez suddenly learning how to use his glove, or with another minor leaguer or even free agent, they can’t hold a spot for him. He needs to earn it, and 2019 will be a huge year for his development, and for his career arc in Toronto.
Again, he’s only 24, so it’s not as if the window of opportunity is already closing on the young man, it’s just a shame that he wasn’t able to break through it this year when the situation allowed for it. He’ll likely get that opportunity again in 2019, whether it’s at the beginning of the year or sometime throughout the season, and hopefully this time we’ll see more of the player that’s been so highly regarded throughout this minor league career.
The talent is there, he just needs to find a way to put it together and continue to stay healthy.