Former top prospect Anthony Alford was designated for assignment by Toronto. His combination of speed and power could land him in Detroit’s outfield soon.
Anthony Alford is currently on waivers after being cut by the Blue Jays this week. If Toronto is unable to work out a trade, Detroit will have the first chance to claim him. The 26-year-old has appeared in 13 games this season. He has hit an abysmal .188 with no walks and seven strikeouts. But his combination of speed and raw power could entice the rebuilding Tigers into giving him some regular at-bats to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle and tap into his once great potential. He is out of options so any team that claims him will either have to keep him on their Major League roster or try to sneak him through waivers once again and hope he clears a second time.
The once top 50 prospect has had an inconsistent professional career. Anthony Alford was considered a first-round talent in the 2012 draft but had a strong commitment to play college football. The Blue Jays took a risk drafting him in the third round but would allow him to continue his college football career while playing baseball in the summer.
Alford amassed just 110 plate appearances over three years while playing football. After quitting football and focusing on baseball full time he became quite a force in the minor leagues. He made his way from High-A to the Major Leagues by May of 2017. He has appeared in 46 games in Toronto over the last four years but is now out of options and the 13-11 Blue Jays are out of patience for him to reach his potential as they try to make the playoffs for just the third time since winning the 1993 World Series.
His speed in the outfield would be a massive upgrade
Even though Christin Stewart has made some highlight-reel catches this season, Alfords’ range would be a massive upgrade in the outfield. Alford’s best attribute is his speed which would shine in Comerica Park’s cavernous outfield. According to Baseball Savant, Alford has the seventh fastest sprint speed of any Major League player this season. His speed in the outfield next to Jacoby Jones and Victor Reyes would give Detroit’s newly arrived pitching prospects one of the best defensive outfields behind them.
Even though both Jones and Reyes are fast, neither of them would be as much of a threat to steal a base as Alford. Alford is perfect on the basepaths having six steals without being caught once so far in the Major Leagues. So far in the minors, he has stolen 114 bases but has only been caught 32 times.
Is he just a Quad-A Player?
Alford hasn’t hit in the Big Leagues. His athletic ability has never been in doubt. But if that was all it took to hit a 97mph fastball, Tim Tebow would be an All-Star. You can be as great of an athlete as anyone but if you can’t hit, you won’t have a Major League career.
Alford has had 75 Major League plate appearances over four seasons to show the Blue Jays that he could be their center fielder. And what has he done in those 75 plate appearances? Two home runs and an OPS of .454. That’s 27 points worse than what Jake Rogers did last season. But, encouragingly, his batting stats have all improved at Triple-A over each of his last three seasons in Buffalo and if it wasn’t for a disastrous April he would have been one of Toronto’s more productive prospects last season.
Will Detroit claim him?
Detroit’s farm system is already full of athletic outfielders that struggle to make consistent contact but it might be worth giving Alford a chance this season. Even though Derek Hill, Cam Gibson, and Travis Demeritte are all capable of producing nearly the same level of production in the Majors this season, they all have struggled in recent years which opens the door for the front office to try something, like claiming Alford.
A .250 average for Alford is probably a dream at this point but he has the potential to hit 15 home runs and steal 15 bases over a full season, albeit with a low average and a frustrating amount of strikeouts. He was a top 50 prospect as recently as 2018 and maybe all he needs is consistent at-bats to tap into his potential and Detroit may be the best place for him to get them.