21 Aug

every new beginning …

It may finally be time for the Toronto Blue Jays and Anthony Alford to part ways. Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, was designated for assignment by the Jays, who have had the outfielder in their system since 2012. Once their top-rated prospect, Alford has just 75 major league plate appearances spread over four seasons. He never won a regular job. He could wind up staying in the Toronto system, but it seems more likely he’ll move on. If, that is, at age 26, he can get an opportunity with another club. Alford was drafted by the Blue Jays in the third round in 2012, even though he had made it clear he wanted to play college football. After stints with Southern Miss and Ole Miss, he decided to focus on baseball in 2014. He has been playing catch-up ever since and dealing with injuries along the way. Maybe he just needs a good break.

11 Mar

studying the options

As major league clubs begin to make cuts, there are a handful of Mississippians on 40-man rosters who are out of options, which essentially means they can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers and possibly being snatched by another club. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the player. Of particular interest is the case of ex-Petal High standout Anthony Alford, a longtime outfield prospect in Toronto’s system. Alford, 25, who has had limited big league time (33 games from 2017-19), has been inconsistent and injured over much of his minor league career. He is batting .167 in 24 at-bats with four steals this spring. Per milb.com, “(H)is plus speed and ability to cover plenty of ground on defense would be assets to the back end of the Blue Jays roster.” Alford is competing with several others for a backup outfield job. Three veteran pitchers are also on the roster bubble: Former Mississippi State standout Chris Stratton (Pittsburgh), Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers (Los Angeles Angels) and Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed (Cincinnati). Mayers has been the most effective this spring, with a 4.76 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. … Former George County High star Justin Steele was optioned out by the Chicago Cubs last week. The oft-injured Steele, 24, had allowed six runs on two hits and six walks in 2 2/3 innings this spring. He was 0-6, 5.59 at Double-A Tennessee in 2019, his sixth pro season. Those numbers notwithstanding, the Cubs reportedly really like the left-hander’s upside.

24 Sep

a piece of history

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.

13 Jun

sitting on ready

The Toronto Blue Jays, foundering at 24-43 in the American League East, have used eight different players in the outfield. Only one of the current group has a batting average over .221; only one has more than five home runs. Meanwhile, at Triple-A Buffalo, former Petal High star Anthony Alford has been raking. Alford, who went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in a Bisons win on Wednesday, is batting .375 this month. He is batting .242 with five homers, 28 RBIs and 13 steals for the season. Alford began this season on the big league roster after a strong spring. He played in one game, on April 2, and went 0-for-3. Sent down to Buffalo, he struggled mightily in April. He bounced back to hit .276 in May and has really caught fire this month. But there’s been no call from Toronto. “I can sit there and be frustrated and be (upset) about it, but I can’t control that,” Alford told The Buffalo News in a story that published Wednesday. “But what I can control is what I’m doing here.” The 24-year-old former Southern Miss and Ole Miss football player has been a top-rated prospect in the Jays’ system for several years. He has had many highs and lows, including a 3-for-30 showing in 18 big league games over three seasons. The Jays are going nowhere this year. They’re getting little production from their current outfielders. Seems like it might be a prime opportunity to see what Alford can do with some regular playing time.

10 Mar

fighting doubt

Most projections don’t have Anthony Alford making Toronto’s opening day roster. The former Mr. Baseball is doing his best to change that. Alford hit his fourth home run of the spring on Saturday, his third in two days. He is batting .286 with seven RBIs and two steals, including one he got Saturday. Though his rank on the Blue Jays’ prospect charts has tumbled, the 24-year-old outfielder still possesses tantalizing five-tool talent and, apparently, the right mindset. “I’ve always had people doubt me,” Alford told The Toronto Star early this month. “Saying, ‘Oh, he can’t make it out of here,’ because nobody makes it out of where I came from.” The Columbia native and Petal High product overcame some obstacles in his early life before sports opened doors for him. He played football at Southern Miss and Ole Miss before opting to pursue a pro baseball career. He spent most of 2018 — his fourth season since fully committing to baseball — in Triple-A. Alford has shown flashes of finding it in the minors, batting .265 with 26 homers and 92 steals over 413 games, but has managed to get only 27 MLB at-bats. It would seem that something needs to happen this year.

18 Sep

back for more

Anthony Alford is back in the big leagues, looking for his first at-bat since May 13. The former Petal High star was recalled from the minors by Toronto on Monday; he is not in tonight’s lineup against Baltimore. Alford, 24, had a tough year at Triple-A Buffalo, batting .240 with five homers and 17 steals. He was injured in big league camp in the spring and got into just seven games with Blue Jays in May before heading to the minors. In 22 MLB at-bats over the last two years, the erstwhile college quarterback has three hits. Alford’s prospect star has dimmed a bit from what it once was, though he is still rated No. 5 in the Toronto system by MLB Pipeline. The remains of this season could be important to his future. Alford said he is particularly pumped about playing in the big leagues with his brother-in-law, Jonathan Davis, who came up through the minors with him. “We’re both here and now it’s just a matter of going out there and playing and having fun,” Alford told the Toronto Sun. P.S. Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe, a rising prospect in Tampa Bay’s organization, will lead Durham against Memphis in tonight’s Triple-A championship game in Columbus, Ohio. Lowe, named to Baseball America’s Minor League All-Stars second team, batted .260 with four homers for Durham and .330 with 27 bombs over three levels on the year. Suiting up for Memphis, St. Louis’ top affiliate, is ex-Ole Miss star Chris Ellis, who went 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 16 games for the Redbirds. The 6 p.m. game will be broadcast by the NBC Sports Network.

11 Aug

whatever happened to …

Anthony Alford has been on the Toronto Blue Jays’ top prospect lists for several years. That’s kind of a problem. You don’t want to be on those lists for too long. You want to be in the big leagues. Former Petal High star Alford turned 24 in July. The right-handed hitting outfielder, who has a total of 22 MLB at-bats, is currently at Triple-A Buffalo and not exactly tearing it up. In 83 games, he is batting .223 with five homers, 24 RBIs, 43 runs and 13 steals. The launch of his pro baseball career was delayed while he played college football, and he has endured a variety of injuries, including a setback this spring in big league camp. When MLB Pipeline updated its top 100 prospects chart last month, Alford dropped from No. 47 to No. 94. Other young outfielders have emerged in the Blue Jays’ system: Teoscar Hernandez, Dwight Smith Jr., Dalton Pompey and Jonathan Davis. Alford is still on the 40-man roster, so one assumes he’ll get a call-up when rosters expand in September. He’ll need to show something.

23 Jun

the search

If he could bottle it, he surely would. Anthony Alford flashed his remarkable potential on Friday night, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, a triple, two runs and an RBI for Triple-A Buffalo in an 8-3 loss to Lehigh Valley. The performance earned the former Petal High star a mention on the Prospect Report segment of MLB Network’s Quick Pitch. But that kind of performance has been rare for Alford this season. He is batting just .217 with a homer, 10 RBIs and eight steals in 42 games for the Toronto affiliate. During a brief stint in the big leagues, the powerfully built outfielder hit .143. Alford has been one of Toronto’s top-rated prospects for several years but, due in part to myriad injuries, has been fighting to find consistency. That search is the key to advancement for every minor leaguer, the key to moving off the prospect chart and into a big league job. Former Harrison Central star Bobby Bradley, a highly regarded Cleveland prospect, is scuffling in his second tour of Double-A ball. The lefty-hitting first baseman had a three-hit game for Akron on Thursday night that included his 12th homer. His power is not an issue; he now has 99 bombs in his five-year minor league career. Consistent contact is what he seeks; he is batting just .196. Former Mississippi State standout Brent Rooker, playing Double-A ball in just his second pro season, has been hot and cold for Minnesota’s Chattanooga club. He struggled much of the first two months, found a groove at the start of June, then fell into another funk. He has hit just .211 in his last 10 games — and is at .263 for the season — but did begin the second half on Thursday with a home run, No. 10 on the year. Sometimes, it’s just tough luck that stalls a prospect’s upward mobility. Ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley was playing well at Triple-A Gwinnett after his promotion from Mississippi, hitting .284 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 26 games for the Stripers. But Atlanta’s third baseman of the future suffered a knee injury that has kept him out since June 3. It’s unclear when he might get back on track.

28 Feb

coming soon

The time is near for Anthony Alford’s breakthrough. Has to be. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal isn’t penciled in as a regular outfielder for Toronto just yet, but he is in the competition for a spot on the 25-man roster. And he’s off to a good start this spring. Alford had a hit, a sacrifice fly and three RBIs in the Blue Jays’ 7-1 Grapefruit League win against Philadelphia today. He is 5-for-12 overall with a home run, a triple and six RBIs. This comes on the heels of a strong performance in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter. He batted .352 with a pair of homers, 15 RBIs and eight steals. Alford, 23, made his big league debut last season, but his stay was curtailed after eight at-bats by a hand injury. He had good numbers in Double-A before and after the injury. Alford’s career started slowly while he played football at Southern Miss and Ole Miss. He has played only 391 games over six seasons. But he has impressed. MLB Pipeline rates him the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system and No. 47 overall. He goes 6 feet 1, 215 pounds and is considered the fastest player in Toronto’s organization. His time is near.

21 Dec

waiting in the wings

You won’t find Anthony Alford’s name on the Toronto Blue Jays’ outfield depth chart that appears on mlb.com. But the former Petal High star will certainly get a long look in spring training, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him make the opening day roster. Alford, 23, has enhanced his credentials with his play in the Mexican Pacific League, a winter assignment he reportedly asked for. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound right-handed hitter is riding a nine-game hit streak that has boosted his average to .344. He has two homers, 15 RBIs, 17 runs and eight steals in 23 games for Jalisco. “Anthony can make your day on and off the field on a regular basis,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins recently told the Toronto Sun. Alford spent most of 2017 in Double-A, batting .310 with five homers. He played four games in the majors early in the season before being derailed by a hand injury. Expect his next big league stay to be much longer.