Toronto Blue Jays: Anthony Alford and his biggest opportunity yet

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Anthony Alford #30 of the Toronto Blue Jays slides into third base in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 17, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Anthony Alford #30 of the Toronto Blue Jays slides into third base in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 17, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Blue Jays will enter the 2020 season with multiple internal options to who will occupy center field as well as the bench outfielder spots.

Over the past three seasons, Anthony Alford has always been a bridesmaid, but never a bride when it comes to making the Toronto Blue Jays roster full time.

Drafted in the 3rd round of 2012 Amateur Draft, the University of Mississippi alum made his first Major League appearance in 2017 and has had a few cups of coffee on the active roster over the past few years.

Alford’s MLB career slash line is not a pretty sight at .145/.203/.218, with just 8 hits, 1 home run, and 23 strikeouts. Most of his experience comes during the roster expansion in September, with the number of games he has played in increasing each year since 2017.

The 2019 season was a bit of wasted opportunity for Alford, but depending on who you ask, this can be attributed to maybe more than just his own performance.

Out of the 16 games he played in last season (1 in April, 15 in September), Alford only played in a complete game on two occasions, either being brought into games in the 5-6th inning or being taken out of the game midway through.

It would have been nice to see Anthony Alford get a bigger opportunity to contribute through more complete games in the September months, considering the Toronto Blue Jays are in full rebuild mode and giving players like Alford more opportunities would be beneficial to figure out the future core of the team. More swings at the plate and an allowing Alford a routine day in, day out may have made him a better player.

On the flip side, one could also argue that his 2019 slash line of .179/.233/.286 was an opportunity wasted by none other than himself, where he couldn’t prove to be brought into the lineup because he just couldn’t produce.

He only walked once, only smacked 5 hits in 28 at-bats, and only drove in 1 run, which is most likely why he was brought later into the game versus starting and finishing games. Prospects have to take every opportunity they are given to produce, and Alford just couldn’t find a way to get on base or bring guys home.

In 2020, Anthony Alford will be in an awkward position where he will be officially out of minor league options and still have his rookie status still intact.

The reason behind this scenario can be attributed to the brief call-ups over the past three years slowly chipping away at all three of his options. If demoted to the minors, Alford will have to be exposed through outright waivers to every MLB team, where he may be picked up by another squad.

Current center fielder Teoscar Hernandez has not shown he can be a viable option as an everyday outfielder, with his inconsistency of putting the ball in play and his awkward routes to fly balls in the outfield. While this may prove to be one of Alford’s biggest opportunities yet, there are other prospects also looking to capitalize on open roster spots.

Billy McKinney, Derek Fisher, and Johnathon Davis are internal options looking to find space on the 2020 Blue Jays roster, with Fisher on the same boat as Alford in that he too is out of options.

Each of these players could very well find themselves on the 26 man roster come opening day if they have a strong spring, but McKinney and Davis do have options remaining, meaning they are a bit more flexible because of their added control. Hernandez also has a minor league option, which could be exercised if he performs poorly out of the gate in spring training or regular season regardless if he is starting or not to begin the year.

If you’re an optimist, you can also throw Dalton Pompey into the outfielder mix, but considering he’s not on the 40 man roster and has had a slew of injuries, his path to the big leagues is incredibly against him.

If you’re a real optimist, throw in Socrates Brito, who was horrendous in 2019 for the Toronto Blue Jays but would absolutely crush in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons, earning the team’s MVP award. If you’re a fan of the comeback player, throw some money on Brito.

Throw in the added scenario that the Blue Jays could go out and find an outfielder via free agency or trade this offseason, and Alford’s opportunity of trying to make the team as a starter turns more into a battle with the other internal options for bench space.

Alford’s chances of making the team grow more with the added roster spot during the regular season (26 man roster starting next season), but he will lose the possible September call up window with the new regulations regarding a max of 28 players on the active roster instead of the previous 40.

In conclusion, I don’t see Anthony Alford making the team out of spring training unless he goes out and earns a bench spot over Billy McKinney.

I truly think the Blue Jays will go out and grab another established outfielder this offseason, and this will create a fight for the 2-3 outfield bench spots on the roster (depending on how the Blue Jays choose to divide their bench).

Derek Fisher will most likely find himself on the roster, as Atkins won’t want to be embarrassed about possibly losing Fisher to waivers in which he was the only player he received in the Aaron Sanchez trade with the Houston Astros this past season.

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I also think Teoscar Hernandez will take a spot on the bench, with the potential to send him down the minors because of his remaining option. My reasoning behind this is his use as a potential DH, but also because Hernandez sometimes finds a way to go on crazy hot streaks where he just smacks home runs.

For the last spot, it will be a battle between McKinney and Alford, with the winner winning the last final spot on the bench.

With McKinney, you have a player with more MLB experience but hasn’t proven to be enough of a contributing player to keep his spot on the active roster.

With Alford, you have an athlete who just hasn’t panned out like the scouts thought he would, but has his back against the wall and is looking to finally be the bride instead of the bridesmaid.

Alford does have an advantage in that the Blue Jays brass may not want to expose him to waivers, which would push McKinney back to the minors even if Alford underperforms during spring training.

It depends on how the Blue Jays front office value Anthony over the long run, and if they think he will contribute to the team’s core moving forward if he doesn’t perform well this upcoming spring.

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Next March will be one of the most important months in Alford’s career, in that he needs to prove that he belongs on the big league stage, and the current battle for center field and the outfield bench may just be the last hurrah for one of the Toronto Blue Jays former top prospects.