Anthony Alford is certainly the 'Jack of athletic trades', as the former quarterback for Southern Mississippi and Old Miss defensive back has a little bit of the Bo Jackson and Neon Deon Sanders bug in him, but he opted for baseball. And that’s a pretty damn smart move because baseball is a much better sport than football – just sayin’.
He was just recently ranked as the 60th best prospect by Baseball America and he has obviously impressed other top prospect list-makers out there, making lists for all of us to swoon at during these cold winter days.
Alford is on his way to replacing Kevin Pillar as the everyday center fielder for the Blue Jays and becoming the king of the turf. Ross Atkins said in a recent interview that Alford would start the season in Buffalo along with Pompey and Teoscar, but I’m sure we will see him, at some point, up in Toronto this season.
Atkins also had this to say at Pitch Talks last week, too:
And so let’s start up the choo choo train of hype again on Alford – not that he needs it, but since it’s been all Vladdy Jr. and Bo recently, let’s take the time to remember the Alford show.
So let’s just revisit FanGraphs’ 2018 ZiPS projections published this past December and take a look at what good ol’ Dan Szymborski’s computer has to say about Alford next season:
Anthony Alford (384 PA, 1.3 zWAR) received just eight plate appearances in the majors last year and only slightly more than that at Triple-A. Nevertheless, he’s Toronto’s second-best outfielder, according to Szymborski’s computer. His value is largely confined to his defensive ability: while forecast for a batting line roughly 30% worse than average (73 wRC+), Alford is projected to record +10 fielding runs (or its equivalent in the minors) in center, in fewer than 400 plate appearances. He profiles roughly as Kevin Pillar’s equal, in other words, and Pillar has been one of the top two or three defensive outfielders in the majors over the last three seasons.
So he’s already pretty much Kevin Pillar’s equal – that’s pretty damn cool. And, sure, the forecast for his batting line isn’t sexy (not that Pillar's is), but let’s not forget that last season in New Hampshire, Alford slashed .310/.406/.429 with a respectable wRC+ 135. And he replicated pretty much the same production during his short stint with the Bisons. It’s a small sample size, but still.
I definitely think that it will serve Alford well to begin the season in Buffalo and learn from the great coaching staff down there like, ya know, Devon White, Corey Hart, and Bob Meacham. They might know a thing or two that could help fine-tune his skills before becoming the everyday center fielder for the good Birds of Summer.
It’s been a slow-ish ride for Alford through the minors as it has taken him some time to polish his natural baseball talent after deciding to leave football and take the damn baseball road to his achievable dreams.
It’s no damn secret that in his first full year in the minors in 2015, he began to make noise with his raw skills, showing scouts hints of the potential that he had. He began the year in the land of the Lugnuts in the Midwest League and finished the year with Dunedin. His numbers were pretty damn good as he slashed .298/.398/.421 with 25 doubles, 7 triples, 4 home runs and 27 stolen bags – not bad at all.
Now, as we all know, 2016 was a down year for Alford, as he struggled with injuries and his overall production was just a big millennial meh, but he straightened the holy hell out in 2017 and pretty much earned the right to, ya know, to be viewed up there with Vladdy Jr. and Bichette - sounds good to me.
I understand that this year is probably not the year that the Blue Jays are going to win the country the coveted Golden Flags, but the future is definitely looking bright. I’m not exactly trying to piss on next season, as I do believe that the current core of players might be able to win more ball games than some fickle fans out there think, but there is no denying the fact that the organization is looking to the future.
I guess, enjoy the players that you have come to love over the past couple of seasons, because new faces are around the corner ready to take their turn down Blue Jays Way and it is something to get excited about.
There is a new wave of future talent inching closer to their time, from Alford to Vladdy Jr. to Bichette to Borucki to Jansen and even Pearson, so get used to what the future brings, because it’s not bad at all. And it’s only a matter of time until Anthony Alford becomes the new king of the turf.