ANTHONY ALFORD, CENTER FIELDER
Born: July 20, 1994
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 3rd Round, 112th Overall, 2012 (Blue Jays)
How Acquired: Waiver Claim (from Blue Jays)
High School: Petal (MS) HS
Agent: Jet Sports

WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
The Jays drafted Alford out of high school.  They signed him as part of an agreement that let him play football at Southern Mississippi in the fall and baseball in the summer.  He left Southern Mississippi after his first season when he got arrested due to a bar fight, and went to Mississippi.  After playing a few games there, he decided to concentrate on baseball.  As a result of his football efforts, he played only a little in the Jays’ system in 2012-14.

When drafted, scouts considered Alford a high-risk player with speed who had the athleticism to play center and the potential to hit for power.  The bat never really developed, although the potential has kept him on prospect lists throughout his time as a pro.  He’s played primarily in center, where he’s been considered around average.  His arm is below average.  According to Statcast, he has elite speed.  Alford has spent parts of four seasons in the majors, but has gotten very little playing time.

2012
R:  167/250/333, 18 AB, 1 HR, 2 BB, 4 K, 4-4 SB

Alford got into only five games in rookie ball.  Baseball America rated him Toronto’s tenth best prospect after the season.

2013
R:  227/414/409, 22 AB, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 BB, 6 K, 2-2 SB

This time Alford got into six games.

2014
R+:  207/343/310, 29 AB, 1 HR, 5 BB, 13 K, 1-1 SB
A:  320/320/480, 25 AB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 8 K, 4-4 SB

Alford continued to play very sparingly:  nine games in advanced rookie ball and five in low class A.  BA rated him 18th in the Jays’ system after the season.

2015
A:  293/418/394, 188 AB, 14 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 39 BB, 60 K, 12-13 SB
A+:  302/380/444, 225 AB, 11 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR, 28 BB, 49 K, 15-21 SB

Splitting his season between low and high A, Alford made a lot of progress, showing a lot of patience and taking advantage of his speed on the bases, although he didn’t hit for much power.  BA rated him the top prospect in the Toronto system.

2016
A+:  236/344/378, 339 AB, 17 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 BB, 117 K, 18-24 SB

The Jays left Alford in high A all year, as he was hampered by a knee injury and a concussion.  He continued drawing walks and showed a little more over-the-fence power, but his K rate increased sharply.  BA ranked him second in the system and the Jays added him to their 40-man roster in the fall.

2017
A+:  143/182/143, 21 AB, 8 K, 1-1 SB
AA:  310/406/429, 245 AB, 14 2B, 5 HR, 35 BB, 45 K, 18-21 SB
AAA:  333/385/417, 12 AB, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K
MLB:  125/125/250, 8 AB, 1 2B, 3 K

Alford fractured his wrist in May and missed two months.  When he was able to play he mostly saw action in AA.  He had a good season at the plate, with a good walk rate and a much-reduced K rate.  Alford got a brief callup in May.  BA ranked him third in the system.

2018
A+:  200/360/250, 20 AB, 1 2B, 3 BB, 8 K, 0-1 SB
AAA:  240/312/344, 375 AB, 22 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 30 BB, 112 K, 17-24 SB
MLB:  105/190/105, 19 AB, 2 BB, 9 K, 1-1 SB

Spending most of his season in AAA, Alford struggled at the plate.  His walk and K rates worsened, and he continued to show very limited power.  He got a brief callup in May and came back to the majors in September.  BA ranked him 11th in the system.

2019
R:  385/467/923, 13 AB, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 BB 1 K
AAA:  259/343/411, 282 AB, 16 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 31 BB, 94 K, 22-30 SB
MLB:  188/188/375, 16 AB, 1 HR, 7 K, 3-3 SB

Alford hit better in AAA, but missed time with an oblique injury.  He fanned in exactly a third of his at-bats.  BA dropped his ranking to 25th.

2020
MLB (Tor):  188/188/375, 16 AB, 1 HR, 7 K, 3-3 SB
MLB (Pgh):  250/308/667, 12 AB, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 K

Out of options, Alford made Toronto’s roster for the shortened season.  He continued to struggle in a very small number of at-bats, and the Jays designated him for assignment.  The Pirates claimed him off waivers.  He got into five games for them, the last three in center.  He looked good at the plate and in the field, but in his last game he fractured his elbow running into the wall in center.  He went out for the season, but is expected to be healthy for 2021.

2021
AAA:  307/420/593, 189 AB, 12 2B, 14 HR, 33 BB, 78 K, 9-13 SB
MLB:  233/311/406, 133 AB, 6 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 12 BB, 58 K, 5-11 SB

Alford had one of the stranger seasons the Pirates have seen in a while.  He opened as the team’s center fielder, but he had a terrible time, going 2-for-24 with 16 strikeouts.  When the Pirates claimed Ka’ai Tom off waivers, they designated Alford for assignment.  He cleared waivers and went to Indianapolis when its season opened.  He continued struggling at first, with a .648 OPS in May, but then he started hammering the ball.  He had an OPS of 1.280 in June and .910 in July, then went 9-for-21 with four home runs to start August.  During all this, Alford’s K rate remained extremely high at 35% for his time in AAA.  After suffering through extended, miserable performances from other players, the Pirates finally called Alford back up in early August and he kept hitting.  He hit 266/328/477 the rest of the year, making him one of the team’s best hitters.  He kept striking out; in fact, his K rate after returning was also 35%.  Alford played a little in center but mostly played left, where both UZR and Outs Above Average had him above average.  With his speed, he’s obviously a good fit for left in PNC Park.  His base stealing technique needs work.

Given the strikeouts, it’s a little hard to feel confident about Alford repeating his 2021, post-May success.  Still, he performed at a level he hadn’t nearly approached at either the AAA or major league level, so something got better.  He should be in line for a regular or semi-regular role in 2022.

CONTRACT INFORMATION
2022: Major League Minimum
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $750,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut: 5/19/2017
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2026
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/18/2016
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2017, 2018, 2019)
MLB Service Time: 2.052
TRANSACTIONS
June 5, 2012: Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 3rd round, 112th overall pick; signed on June 14.
November 18, 2016: Contract purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays.
August 20, 2020: Designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays.
August 27, 2020: Claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
April 21, 2021: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; assigned to AAA on April 25.
August 7, 2021: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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