Digging For Diamonds Profile: Anthony Alford
As requested, we here at TDG give the people what they want and take a deeper look at one of the most exciting athletes in the lower minors, Blue Jays outfielder Anthony Alford. Toronto selected the former Mississippi Mr. Baseball and Mr. Football in the third round, 112th overall in the 2012 draft. Alford was an option quarterback at Petal High School, and was viewed before the draft as a tough sign due to his pending scholarship to play QB at Southern Miss. The Blue Jays convinced Alford to sign for $750,000, but also allowed him to pursue his football career in the fall in addition to playing baseball in the summer, quite a coup to secure what some scouts felt was a top-10 overall talent. John Sickels of SB Nation’s Minor League Ball, rated Alford as the 53rd best talent in the draft class, appearing ahead of more notable current prospects Lewis Brinson and Nick Williams, Braves rotation member Alex Wood, and also in front of fellow high-school prospect (and likely top-10 overall pick in next month’s draft) Alex Bregman, who went on to star at LSU.
The tools that made Alford such a highly coveted talented in the 2012 draft class are evident in the above video. Scouts viewed him as a potential five-tool performer, with impact potential on the basepaths (4.45 second 40-yard dash time) and above average arm strength, with power potential that could develop down the line.
Alford enrolled at Southern Miss in the fall of 2012 and played on an awful team that finished winless, making five starts at quarterback as a true freshman, and leading the team in total offense with 993 yards. The man responsible for recruiting Alford (one of the highest rated recruits in Southern Miss history), Ellis Johnson was fired after the year (along with the rest of his staff, which included his high school head coach Steve Buckley) and he decided to transfer to Ole Miss, sitting out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Alford only got 20 plate appearances of development time playing baseball in 2012 and 30 plate appearances in 2013, both seasons at the complex level, as he focused almost exclusively on his football career. Before the 2014 football season, Alford was moved out of the complex levels, but still only received 60 plate appearances before the start of football season. The 2014 football season saw Alford beaten out at quarterback by Bo Wallace, forcing a move to safety to get on the field. Alford recorded six tackles in four games, and was the backup punt returner for the Rebels, before walking into head coach/Batman villain Hugh Freeze’s office and told him he was quitting football to concentrate on his baseball career. Alford cited the physical toll playing safety took on his body as one of the reasons why he gave football up and ultimately decided to focus on baseball, starting with the 2015 season.
After making the decision to give up football, Alford played winter ball in Australia, getting 152 much-needed plate appearances, more reps at the plate than he had gotten in his previous three minor league seasons combined. Playing against much older competition, he struggled to a .631 OPS, but gained valuable experience playing everyday.
[milbvideo id=”112749383″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]
After spending much of the spring in major-league camp, the Blue Jays assigned the now 20-year old Alford to Low-A Lansing of the Midwest League to start the 2015 season, and Alford has responded to the challenge nicely, putting together a .324/.481/.431 line, good for a .913 OPS in his first 135 plate appearances. Alford has utilized his plus speed in center field and has stolen six bases in seven attempts. The 6’1″ 205 pound Alford hasn’t translated his power to games yet, but has seen 11 of his 33 hits go for doubles, so this isn’t a case of a fast player laying down bunts or beating out infield hits all of over the place and getting on base nearly half of the time. He also has shown pretty remarkable plate discipline for a player as inexperienced in the sport as he is, walking 30 times (22% rate) to this point in the year, and striking out 32 times, a manageable 24% rate. It’s quite obvious that Alford needs a lot of developmental time, but the Blue Jays have shown that talent trumps developmental time in the minors, so Alford could be moved up the latter aggressively over the next few seasons if he continues to show the polish that he has in the Midwest League so far, similarly to how Dalton Pompey was pushed last season.
Alford is a prospect that I could see ending up as a borderline top-100 prospect by the end of the season, and is likely not owned in your league. There probably aren’t many higher ceiling prospects that are currently available for free, and that likely won’t be the case very much longer. Alford’s talent is real and now that he’s concentrating on baseball full-time, he should continue to generate plenty of buzz throughout the season.
J.J. Jansons is a contributor to The Dynasty Guru. Be one of the first to follow him (literally) on Twitter, where you can request future topics to be covered here at TDG. Follow @jansons_jj