Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Anthony Alford Leaves Ole Miss

   In a stunning development, Blue Jays outfield prospect Anthony Alford has left Ole Miss, where he was attempting to resurrect his collegiate football career, and accepted a presumably enhanced contract offer from the Jays that he initially rejected in July.

   The 2012 third round pick has, in the words of Keith Law, "first round talent," but his original commitment to play Quarterback at Southern Mississippi dropped his draft stock.  He has accumulated all of 97 pro at bats since that time, but that has been more than enough to leave scouts drooling.  The premium athlete began to give glimpses to his vast potential at Lansing this year, before spurning Toronto's contract extension and heading back to Mississippi.

   Alford is a premium athlete who was learning a new position and was a backup in Ole Miss' defensive backfield this season.  He initially was returning punts as well, but that trial ended a few games into the season.  According to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Alford was not on scholarship after sitting out a redshirt season as a result of his transferring from Southern Miss, where he had dropped out after a campus incident following a frustrating freshman season .  He had recorded six tackles in four games, and had returned a pair of punts for 8 yards. Alford had taken snaps at QB before the season, but had seen no action at the pivot after training camp ended.  Coach Hugh Frazee had spoken many times of trying to find ways to get Alford on the field.

   We're still looking into why this happened so suddenly.  Someone on Twitter suggested that the Blue Jays may have wanted to protect their investment, and had pressured Alford to leave Ole Miss before an upcoming slew of games against tough SEC opponents.  He may have been unhappy about a reduced role with the Rebels after being one of the nation's top high school recruits in his senior year of high school.  Alford is headed to Florida, likely to report to Instructional League.

   We're a bit puzzled by this, and by other things Alford has done in the past.  We have discussed how he may not have had the strongest and most positive influences growing up (his father is currently incarcerated on drug-related charges, and his mother has done time for drug offences as well).  At only 20 years of age, he has made what appears to be several hasty decisions in the past 24 months.  He played pro ball for only two weeks this year, and left early to get married, which we have heard the Jays brass was understandably less than thrilled about. We think that this last decision, though, abrupt as it was, is the best for his future.

   It's hard to predict exactly what the future holds for Alford the ball player.  We could see him starting next season at Lansing, but he likely will be promoted quickly if he is successful.  He still is a good distance away from the majors, but with the experience he will gain by playing every day, his learning curve is bound to rapidly accelerate.

  To us, Alford was a borderline Top 10 Blue Jays prospect even with his football commitment.  He leaps solidly into that group with today's news.

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