Anthony Alford is back in Dunedin of the Florida State League, where he is reunited with fellow Mississippian D.J. Davis. The 2012 Toronto draft picks have seen their careers veer off in very different directions. Alford, a third-round selection out of Petal High, is in A-ball again on a major league rehab assignment. The outfielder, who turns 23 next week, was batting .325 with three homers and nine steals at Double-A New Hampshire when he was promoted to the big leagues on May 19. He was 1-for-8 before suffering a broken left wrist and landing on the disabled list on May 24. Alford, whose career was stalled for a couple of years while he played college football, is rated among the top prospects in the Blue Jays’ system. He is No. 38 on Baseball America’s most recent chart of the Top 100 overall. Davis, a first-round draftee out of Stone County, was once a highly rated prospect himself. Not so much now. The outfielder, who turns 23 on July 25, is in his second season at Dunedin after spending two years in low-A ball. He is batting .218 with 19 steals but has just six extra-base hits. He batted .197 in 2016. Perhaps inspired by Alford’s arrival, Davis went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI for Dunedin on Wednesday. He needs a lot more days like that in what remains of his season.
D.J. Davis’ stock, which appeared to be on the rise again after the 2015 season, has plunged this summer. The former first-round pick from Stone County High is batting .199 (up from a recent low of .193) with one home run, 13 RBIs and 26 runs in 69 games at Class A Dunedin. Baseball America once had the left-handed hitting outfielder rated the No. 3 prospect in Toronto’s system. After a rough year at low-A Lansing in 2014, he dropped to No. 21. Back in Lansing for the 2015 season, Davis seemed to find his stride. He cut down on strikeouts and batted .282 with seven homers, seven triples and 21 steals. He entered 2016 rated by BA as the Blue Jays’ 10th-best prospect. He won’t be that high entering 2017. (MLB.com currently has him at No. 23.) Davis has struck out 82 times this season, and walked just 26, in 236 at-bats. Scouting reports rave about his speed, and he has stolen 19 bases in 23 attempts this season. But speed doesn’t play if you can’t get on base. Davis, who turned 22 on July 25, is in his fifth pro season. Double-A is the game’s real proving ground, and Davis hasn’t shown this year that he’s even ready to try that level.
If it was a contest, D.J. Davis won. But just barely. The former Stone County High star had four hits for the Lansing Lugnuts on Monday. Fellow Mississippian Anthony Alford, Davis’ teammate, had to settle for three hits. Both picked up a run, an RBI and a stolen base as the Lugnuts beat South Bend 7-5 in a Midwest League game. Both Magnolia State products are picking up momentum in their pro career. Davis, Toronto’s first-round pick in 2012, is batting .265 in the low Class A MWL. Hailed for his sprinter’s speed, the lefty-hitting outfielder, 20, has seven stolen bases (in 12 tries), a homer, 12 RBIs and 18 runs. Alford, the former Mr. Baseball (and Mr. Football) from Petal, has been on a tear in his first full season since leaving the Ole Miss football program last fall. Alford, also 20, a right-handed hitting outfielder, is batting .322 with seven RBIs, 19 runs and six steals. Davis is currently rated the No. 18 prospect in the Blue Jays’ system by mlb.com, a notch ahead of Alford, though Alford may have the greater potential. “It’s limitless what Anthony can do,” Kenny Graham, the hitting coach at Lansing, told milb.com. Both Davis and Alford are projected to make The Show in 2018, though that might be a conservative forecast.
He’s not a teenager anymore, but in baseball terms, D.J. Davis is still a kid — and still raw. The former Stone County High standout, the first Mississippian drafted in 2012, turned 20 today. He is celebrating, we presume, in Peoria, if that is possible, where he and his Lansing Lugnuts teammates are scheduled for a Midwest League game. Davis, a left-handed hitting outfielder, was the 17th overall pick as a 17-year-old by the Toronto Blue Jays, who reportedly loved his speed. He is rated the No. 4 prospect in that system by mlb.com but obviously still has room to grow. Davis, 6 feet 1, 180 pounds, has shown some pop this season with 11 doubles and seven home runs, and his wheels have produced five triples and 12 steals. He’s got 40 RBIs and 45 runs in 88 games. But he is hitting just .213 (.271 on-base percentage) and has fanned 124 times in 367 at-bats with only 28 walks. And this is in low-A ball. The pitching will only get better as he advances. But again, at 20, Davis is young. He’s got time.