Anthony Alford his heading back to the Majors. The Toronto Blue Jays optioned pitcher Jake Petricka to get back to a seven-man bullpen and called up Alford to take his spot.
Alford is one of the more maddening prospects in the Blue Jays system. While we have been treated to the quick rise of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Bo Bichette (amongst others), injuries have continued to prevent us from seeing what Alford can really do.
And with his athleticism, it is (hopefully) worth waiting for.
Alford is 23-years-old, but that is misleading in baseball years. He was drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft, but played college ball at Southern Miss and then Mississippi. College football that is.
He started his career as a quarterback and then switched up to defensive back before dropping football completely to focus full-time on baseball in the Blue Jays minor league system. That alone should speak volumes in the athleticism department.
Alford had played 25 total games heading into that 2015 season, his first as a true baseball player, his teenage years lost as a fresh 20 year old. He did very well, showing at least average tools across the board slashing .298/.398/.421 with 27 doubles, seven triples and four home runs while going 27-for-34 on the base paths. He showed a propensity to strikeout a bit too much, but also walked 67 times in over 450 plate appearances, so he was able to get on base. He played 107 games split between Low and High-A, the most of his career and the only time he has exceeded 100 games in a season.
He took a step back in 2016, but tapped into his raw power, but only played 99 games. His 2017 saw better numbers, but he spent nearly two months on the disabled list after breaking his hamate during his brief big league debut. Bad luck just follows Alford health-wise, and that didn’t stop this year. He had a late start to the season, beginning the year on the DL after a hamstring issue.
Now he is back in Toronto and with Curtis Granderson a bit dinged up, he may see some playing time quickly. Despite the emergence of Guerrero, Jr. and Bichette, our John Sickels still had Alford the third-best prospect in the system. His tools, although some still raw, are just too good to overlook.
Age 23, third round pick in 2012, hit .299/.390/.406 with five homers, 19 steals, 36 walks, 55 strikeouts in 278 at-bats in 2017 most of them in Double-A; went 2-for-8 in the majors then broke hamate bone; former football player has rapidly developed baseball skills that make athleticism relevant on the field; 70-grade speed, 50-grade power, weakest tool is throwing arm; good feel for hitting; main problem has been staying healthy; should be multi-category contributor; ETA 2018.
A bum knee, broken bones and hamstring issues aside, Alford is an exciting prospect. He has great bat speed from the right-handed side and that generates hard contact. Again, he will strikeout a bit, but he does manage the strike zone and draw walks to balance that. Once on base, Alford can turn walks and singles into doubles with his top-grade speed. And while John mentions his arm is his weakest tool, it is still average. Combined with his speed, range, and instincts, Alford is an asset in the field.
The only thing holding Alford back is his health. Though his playing time may be limited in Toronto for now, he should be able to seize the opportunity and show what he can do appearing to be fully healthy for the first time in a long time. In a system top heavy with some exciting prospects, Alford’s return to the MLB will be one to watch.