Jays From the Couch has been counting down the Toronto Blue Jays 2016 Top Prospects and we’ve arrived at #1, which is probably not a surprise.
By now we all know the story of Anthony Alford, a consensus upper-level talent, falling to the third round because of teams’ fears that they couldn’t sign him. We all know how he was picked by the Jays, and we all know that after three years of trying to make football work, he was pulled back to baseball.
DOB: July 20, 1994
He finally spent his first full season playing baseball and he certainly lived up to the hype. After posting a 143 wRC+ with Lansing, he was promoted and continued to absolutely tear up his opponents, with a 153 wRC+.
With his plus speed, Alford also has the potential to develop into a plus defender in center field. His arm was described by Kiley McDaniel as solid average, but chances are with more time in baseball and more mechanics work, it could keep improving, as he was a quarterback his first year in NCAAF.
Alford is not a perfect prospect, though. For starters, he strikes out a lot. In Lansing, he was all the way at 25.9%, which is clearly an issue, being the 26th highest among Midwest League players in 2015. And he did improve once promoted, to 19.2%, good for 55th worst in the Florida State League. Alford also had an uncomfortably high BABIP, with .419 in A and .374 in A+, both very high and probably bound to come down.
One great thing about Alford is his ability to walk. He took a free pass in 16.8% of his appearances with the Lugnuts and 11.0% with the D-Jays. This helps make the pronounced strikeout rate tolerable.
Alford also saw a jump in ISO when he moved up to Dunedin, from .101 to .142, which should continue to develop the longer he stays in baseball. With improved pitch recognition, Alford should continue hitting the ball hard and also striking out less.
When looking at the mechanics of his swing, you can see that Alford keeps his hands very high to start his swing. This mechanic problem is normally signified by a high rate of groundballs and opposite field flyballs (check pictures below). This could be affecting both his power and his contact skills. Lowering his hands would allow for a better plane on contact, and also shorten the swing time. One other issue that Alford has is that there is a little bit of vertical movement, and when you change eye level, it is harder to make contact. I can’t find video, but I suspect the better K-rate in the second half is due to the stabilization of this issue. Also, Alford has the tendency to bend his front leg when his hips come through, which if changed, could lead to better rotation and even more power. He’s a great athlete, so these adjustments shouldn’t be trouble for him to make.
Alford also is able to use his plus speed to steal bases, going 27/34 and is overall a great baserunner, where Baseball Prospectus gives him a 10.6 runs above average.
Outlook for 2016:
Alford should head down to New Hampshire to begin the season. If he carries on with his current development, he will continue onto Buffalo, and is a real candidate for a September call up.
Alford has the tools, and the makeup to be a great player for a long time. A real athlete, who is now committed to baseball with lots of talent and more than the expected amount of polish. Get excited to see him in Spring Training, September and possibly 2017 with the big boys.
*Featured Image Credit: Buck Davidson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0