Your first big league home run is going to be memorable. When it’s a walk-off bomb, in the 15th inning, well, that qualifies as historic. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford accomplished that feat for Toronto on Monday night, reportedly becoming just the second player in modern history to hit a walk-off in the 15th inning or later for his first career homer. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid. Everybody was so happy for him,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told mlb.com after the 11-10 win against Baltimore. Alford had entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner. The homer came on what was Alford’s 21st at-bat of the season. He has had just 48 big league ABs spread over the past three seasons. “I really just try to enjoy the moment,” Alford told mlb.com. “Because honestly, you never know when it will happen again.” The 25-year-old former Mr. Baseball has been on the Blue Jays’ prospect charts since 2012, when he was drafted in the third round despite his commitment to play college football (first at Southern Miss, then Ole Miss). He turned to baseball fulltime in 2015. He is a .265 hitter – with 34 homers and 114 steals – in a minor league career full of ups and downs and various injuries. Currently ranked the No. 20 prospect in the Toronto system by MLB Pipeline, Alford is stuck in a crowd of young outfielders vying for opportunities with the Blue Jays.
Way back in 2014, he was a full-blown star at Columbia High and then a second-round draft pick by the Texas Rangers. On Tuesday, Ti’Quan Forbes was back on a ballfield in Mississippi, playing third base and banging out a couple of hits for the Double-A Birmingham Barons against the M-Braves at Trustmark Park in Pearl. He’s come a long way – but still has a ways to go on the big league highway. Forbes was the state’s Mr. Baseball as a rangy — and toolsy — shortstop at Columbia. He has filled out to 6 feet 3, 220 pounds and moved to third base but has yet to develop the power expected at that position. Batting .245 this year, his first in Double-A, Forbes has three home runs and a .332 slugging percentage in 103 games. He has a .251 career average and just 24 homers over six seasons, 11 of those bombs coming in A-ball in 2017. That was the year he was traded, in August, from Texas to the Chicago White Sox. His defense has been solid – 15 errors in 94 games at third this year – but the bat needs to perk up. Even though he is only 22 – he turns 23 on Aug. 26 – time may not be on his side much longer.
In his relatively brief time in the minors, Anthony Alford has hit and run and showed enough arm to play right field. The power hasn’t been there, but you have to think that tool will come out soon. Ex-Petal High star Alford, now Toronto’s No. 3 prospect, is batting .304 with 13 RBIs, 26 runs and nine steals in 40 games at Class A Dunedin in the Florida State League. Batting leadoff and playing center field on Sunday, he had a four-hit game, including a triple and a walk-off double. He hit .293 with 16 RBIs, 49 runs and 12 steals in 50 games at Lansing in the low-A Midwest League before earning a promotion. Alford, 21, has just one home run at each level this season, his first full year in pro ball since the Blue Jays drafted the erstwhile football player in 2012. He has five bombs in 115 career games. Alford lists at 6 feet 1, 205 pounds and looks bigger. At Petal, where he was Mr. Baseball and Mr. Football, drawing Bo Jackson comparisons, Alford hit four homers and slugged .805 in 30 games as a senior. The power will come. And just wait till he gets a chance to hit at Toronto’s Rogers Centre in a couple of years. P.S. Versatility is keeping Ole Miss alum Chris Coghlan in the sizzling Chicago Cubs’ lineup. Coghlan, a lefty hitter, has been playing second base, his primary minor league position, of late (since Starlin Castro’s benching). Coghlan has played mostly left field for manager Joe Maddon but also has seen time at third, first and right field. He is batting only .248 but has a .334 on-base percentage, 11 homers, 25 RBIs and 10 steals.
Anthony Alford has played so well this season in the low minors, his name surfaced with some big ones today in trade talks. Early reports of the David Price deal had former Petal High star Alford included in the package Toronto was sending Detroit for the ace left-hander. But the Blue Jays held onto Alford, who is now rated their No. 4 prospect by mlb.com. The 21-year-old outfielder, 6 feet 1, 205 pounds, is batting .300 with a pair of homers, 25 RBIs and 19 steals at two levels of A-ball. He has hit .311 in 30 games at high Class A Dunedin. Drafted in the third round by Toronto in 2012, when he was Mr. Baseball, Alford had played only 25 minor league games before 2015 as he focused on football, first at Southern Miss, then at Ole Miss. He quit football last fall and played in the Australian Baseball League before getting an invite to the Blue Jays’ major league spring camp. His stock seems to be rising.
Mason Robbins produced a four-hit game on July 22, and the ex-Southern Miss star has been raking ever since for Class A Kannapolis. Robbins, drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 25th round in 2014, is 11-for-34 (.324) during his seven-game hit streak, boosting his average to .260. A left-handed hitting outfielder, Robbins has three homers, 34 RBIs and 35 runs in 89 games. The George County High product, the state’s Mr. Baseball in 2011, has three four-hit games this season in the South Atlantic League. … Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State’s all-time saves leader, made his first relief appearance of the season on Monday for Class A Tampa, working 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Holder’s first 12 appearances for the New York Yankees’ Florida State League club were starts. The right-hander from Gulfport made three starts of just nine total innings during a brief stay with the rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees before returning to the Tampa club. Holder, a sixth-round pick in 2014, is 5-2 with a 2.44 ERA. He started eight of 12 games last year. … Ole Miss alumnus Chris Ellis continues to shine at Double-A Arkansas in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. He’s 4-1 with a 3.61 ERA in eight starts for the Travelers, striking out 35 and walking 22 in 42 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander says command, not power, is key to his success. “When you can locate four different pitches, it’s easy. When you only locate two, it’s a little harder. When you locate one, it’s impossible,” Ellis, a 2014 third-round pick, told milb.com. … Alcorn State product Earl Burl III has experienced lots of ups and downs in his rookie season. The outfielder is batting .240 with 13 RBIs, 15 runs and eight steals over 33 games for rookie-level Vancouver in the Toronto organization. Burl, an outfielder, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs in his first game on June 18 and has six other multi-hit games. But he hasn’t been able to get his average above .268 since that debut effort.
Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones got his first taste of Double-A ball on Monday and apparently liked it very much. Jones, a Pittsburgh prospect (No. 13 by mlb.com) at shortstop, went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a run and a stolen base to spark Altoona to a 3-2 win over Richmond in the Eastern League. Jones, the state’s Mr. Baseball in 2010 and a third-round draft pick out of LSU in 2013, was batting .253 with 10 homers and 58 RBIs at Class A Bradenton. Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier also plays for Altoona and has started 26 of his 64 games for the Curve at short. He also has played the outfield and started Monday in center, hitting leadoff. He is batting .357.
The stars are coming out in the minor leagues. JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton, is slated to play in the Florida State League All-Star Game today in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Jones, a shortstop at high Class A Bradenton in the Pittsburgh system, is batting .259 (despite a recent slump) with eight homers and 40 RBIs. Selected in the third round of the 2013 draft out of LSU, Jones is rated by Baseball America as the Pirates’ 13th best prospect. He was a South Atlantic League postseason All-Star in 2014 after batting .288 with 23 homers for West Virginia. … Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder, a New York Yankees farmhand pitching for Tampa, is also in the FSL game. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson is on the North Division roster for the Double-A Southern League All-Star Game on Tuesday in Montgomery, Ala. Anderson, a top-rated prospect for the Chicago White Sox, is hitting .298 with 27 RBIs and 22 steals for Birmingham. A host of Biloxi players and several Mississippi Braves are on the South roster. … Left-hander Cody Reed, ex-Northwest Mississippi Community College standout from Horn Lake, is on the Carolina League All-Star team for the game against the California League All-Stars, also on the docket for Tuesday. Reed is 5-5 with a 2.14 ERA for Class A Wilmington in the Kansas City system. … Anthony Alford, another former Mr. Baseball from Petal, is in the Class A Midwest League All-Star Game, also set for Tuesday. Alford plays for Lansing in the Toronto system and is hitting .284 with 11 bags in his first full pro campaign. … Delta State product Carlos Leal, a catcher with Wisconsin (Milwaukee system), and ex-Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull, a pitcher for West Michigan (Detroit), are also ticketed for the MWL classic. P.S. Brian Dozier isn’t in the top five at second base in the fan voting for next month’s MLB All-Star Game. What a shame. The former Southern Miss standout is batting .264 (.346 on-base) with 13 homers, 32 RBIs, 22 doubles, three triples and 54 runs for Minnesota. As a USA Today columnist writes, Dozier “is becoming a star before our eyes.” Surely he’ll get All-Star consideration from fellow players and American League manager Ned Yost.