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Anthony Alford Making Up for Lost Time

Anthony Alford Making Up for Lost Time

October 1, 2015

Anthony Alford

Anthony Alford spent his first half of the 2015 season with the Lansing Lugnuts. (Kyle Castle/MiLB.com)

The fastest moving prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system is none other than outfielder Anthony Alford. Going from a college football player a year ago to the Blue Jays third highest ranked prospect happened quickly. But despite this quick turnaround in his career, it wasn’t an easy one for Alford as he had to make up for lost time on the diamond.

After focusing more on a football career for the first three seasons of his professional career, Alford made the tough decision last fall to change his course of action. The news was surprising, as many felt Alford was going to stick with the gridiron for the long haul.

His change of heart came in part to the success he found on the diamond in 2014. Earning a late season promotion to the Lansing Lugnuts, Alford went 8-for-25 with a double, a home run, and three RBIs before returning to Ole Miss briefly.

It was this early success in full season baseball that really opened Alford’s eyes to a different career path. Always knowing he had the ability to play both sports at a high level in high school the prospect thought his skills leaned more on the football side until he found himself competing with guys in a full season workload.

“I had some really good at-bats in Lansing during the 2014 season,” explained Alford. “That brief stint in Lansing really showed me what pro baseball was really like compared to just playing in rookie ball. After that I just felt like baseball was the sport that was going to provide me with a better future.”

Only recording 94 at-bats combined in his first three seasons of professional baseball. The Blue Jays knew Alford needed some extra reps to get him back to Lansing for a 140-game season.

They addressed this need by assigning the Mississippi native to the Camberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League. Playing winter ball down under would definitely get Alford the at-bats he needed to narrow the gap a bit.

Playing winter ball also gave the young prospect the opportunity to learn from a lot of other players further along in their careers – including several players that competed in high-A baseball or above in this league. It was a great learning tool for both Alford and the Blue Jays.

Registering 26 hits in 130 at-bats wasn’t quite the finish Alford was looking for in the ABL. But he did show promise as he recorded four doubles, a triple, three home runs, and eight RBIs in a league where he was roughly five years younger than the majority of his competition.

Humbled by this opportunity, Alford has nothing but great things to say about his experience representing the organization in this prestigious winter league.

“Playing in the Australian League was really nice,” stated Alford. “I learned more about myself and the game than ever before. It gave me an opportunity to play with a lot of experienced guys. At the same time it gave me an opportunity to enjoy a new experience and atmosphere down in Australia.”

Entering spring camp the organization continued to challenge the skilled outfielder. Adding him to their major league camp for a portion of spring training really opened up Alford’s eyes to what he can expect about being a big leaguer down the road.

“Playing in the big league camp in spring training was really nice,” explained Alford. “It was great getting out there and learning from some of the older guys. Devon Travis took me under his wing. He treated me like I was his little brother. He taught me small things and the best advice that he gave me was to be always ready, because when you’re ready there will be a chance to succeed.”

Alford had an all-star caliber first half in the Midwest League. Earning 55 hits in 188 at-bats showed the progression the prospect made in such a short amount of time. But the areas that really stood out were Alford’s 49 runs scored and his .418 OBP.

Receiving word that he was going to spend his second half with the advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays during the Midwest League All-Star break, Alford was ready to showcase his ability against more developed pitching.

The better command he saw from the pitchers didn’t slow him down though. In fact his production numbers picked up in the Florida State League. Recording 20 extra base hits in the FSL, which included: 11 doubles, six triples, and three home runs left Blue Jays fans chomping at the bit to see more from this prospect.

Improving in more ways than just extra base hits, Alford raised his batting average nine points to .302 and his slugging percentage 50 points to .444. Both of which are good indicators for what’s to come in the near future.

Focused on more than just being a great bat, Alford is continuing to fine-tune his defensive game. With an above-average .966 fielding percentage between the two levels, Alford committed just nine errors in his first full year of baseball, while taking part in a double play and assisting on another three.

“I feel my defensive game is getting better with more repetition,” explained Alford. “I feel better out there. I feel more comfortable and that’s the biggest thing being comfortable and learning every day.”

Maintaining your body is a big concern in your first full season. With a slight learning curve on how to keep his body in tip-top shape for a 140-game season; Alford explains some of the differences he has seen in his daily preparation.

“In the full season I feel the conditioning is a little different,” stated Alford. “I feel you really need to focus on your legs. I stretch out more. You have to do more mobility work which adds more days for your body to hold up to the demands of a full season.”

Using some of these techniques currently as he takes part in the Blue Jays Instructional League this fall, Alford is putting the finishing touches on what has already been a remarkable season with the help of the coaches in the system.

While he has enjoyed all the coaches he has worked with so far in his career. Alford has built a great relationship with hitting coach Kenny Graham. Appreciative of his approach to preparing his guys for more than just minor league baseball; Alford is grateful for all the time they had together in Lansing and is looking forward to learning more from Graham in upcoming camps.

“I really like working with Kenny Graham a lot,” said Alford. “Kenny is preparing you for success in the big leagues. He doesn’t just focus on doing well in low-A ball. But he’s focused on the bigger picture and getting his guys to the big leagues. Hopefully I’ll be one of those guys one day as he continuously teaches me how to not waste reps at the plate. Kenny does a really good job of making sure you’re working the right way and that’s what I like about him.”

Blue Jays fans certainly hope that Anthony Alford is part of the clubs long-term plans as well.

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian has covered professional baseball for eight seasons for numerous media outlets.
Brian Crawford

@CrawDaddy222

Great Lakes Loons Beat Writer for @BB_Essential, and Toronto Blue Jays Prospect Writer for @JaysProspects. Proud @IBWAA member. https://t.co/R9b2QREHJt
Brian Crawford

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