by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
A former two-sport athlete, the Blue Jays initially had allowed Anthony Alford to continue playing football after drafting him in the third round in 2012. In 2014 he finally gave up football and the results are starting to show as he focuses solely on baseball.
Splitting time between Single-A and High-A he hit .298 with 4 HR, 35 RBI, 91 R and 27 SB. On the surface the numbers don’t seem all that impressive, but they represent a significant step forward and there is even more room for him to grow. Keep in mind his lack of experience entering the season, with just 94 AB from 2012-2014.
He showed a tremendous eye at the plate, with a 13.76% walk rate. It helps to ease any concerns about his average, given his 22.38% strikeout rate and .393 BABIP. It’s something he needs to continue to improve upon, with the lack of playing time after initially being drafted likely playing a factor in the numbers.
There is no questioning his upside, bringing both power and speed potential to the table. Just look at what MLB.com had to say:
“Alford is an exceptional athlete, and his tools haven’t been nearly as unrefined as feared. Though he’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts, he has made a lot of hard contact and has considerable raw power he has yet to tap into. His plus-plus speed is a weapon on the bases and gives him a chance to remain in center field, while his strong arm makes right field a viable fallback position.”
He was likely outside the Top 10 of most prospect lists entering 2015, but that’s going to change entering 2016 now that he’s solely focused on baseball.
The speed was evident last season, and as his game refines and he gains experience we should see the stolen bases totals climb.
The raw power is there, and with 25 doubles and 7 triples it’s just a matter of time before the 21-year old (he doesn’t turn 22 until July) begins to tap into it.
That’s a lethal combination, especially with his already impressive eye at the plate, even if he simply maintains his strikeout rate from this past season. If he can improve upon it, though? We have to give him time, especially given the gap in playing time, but if he can adjust he could quickly develop into one of the premier prospects in the game.
While he isn’t there yet, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him open the year at Double-A in 2016. Watch him closely in the early season, because it could come together quickly.
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs
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