Thursday, May 30, 2013

Alford Off to the GCL

   The Blue Jays pursued a strategy in last year's draft that saw them roll the dice, and they looked for high-risk, high-reward prospects.  They took Duke righthander Marcus Stroman with their first choice, a pitcher who some viewed as the closest to major league ready among all 2012 draftees, but possibly had a limited ceiling due to his hieght.
In the 2nd round, they took Ohio high school pitcher Matt Smoral - Smoral had been projected as a first round pick, but the lefthander tumbled to the Jays in the sandwich round because of a foot injury and signability concerns.
   With their 3rd pick, the Jays reached outside the box once more and took Mississippi multiple-sport star Anthony Alford.  A three-time state high school player of the year for Pearl High School, most teams were turned off by Alford's stated intent to play quarterback at Southern Mississippi. There was no doubt about Alford's talent: Baseball America had him ranked as the 36th best prospect prior to the 2012 draft; Keith Law had him at #48.  He was widely considered a 5-tool player, but there was that football thing. The gambling Jays agreed to allow Alford to leave baseball early in August to chase his football dream, and he signed and reported to Florida.
   The Jays assigned him to their Gulf Coast rookie team, where he hit .167/.250/.333 in only 20 plate appearances.
   And then things began to fall apart for Alford. He started five games for Southern Miss, but the team scuffled along to an 0-12 record.  In November, Alford was arrested for campus police for aggravated assault, a charge which was later reduced.  The Golden Eagles released Alford from his scholarship in December, and reports in the new year indicated that he would be enrolling at Ole Miss.  At spring practice, he played safety, before reporting to extended spring training last week.
   Alford told Jason Munz of the Hattiesburg American that he would be reporting to the GCL Jays when their season opens in June, and then would be heading to short season Vancouver.  Given his inexperience and lack of ABs this spring, that timetable may be wishful thinking.  Bluefield might be a more likely destination than the Northwest League, which is made up mostly of college grads.
   Clutchlings has been hesitant to rank Alford as a top prospect because of his football commitment and personal issues, but it will be truly interesting to watch his development this summer.
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