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Time could be running out for Anthony Alford

Once considered one of the top prospects in the Blue Jays’ farm system, Anthony Alford needs to stay healthy and make some big strides in 2019 or he could become a forgotten man in the rebuilding process.

While 2018 was a pretty amazing year for several Blue Jays prospects, it was anything but for 24 year old outfielder, Anthony Alford.

The former two sport star was expected to be a much bigger factor for the Blue Jays last season, and many (yours truly included) thought he would find his way to the big league roster by the time the 2018 season was over. I even thought he had the potential to legitimately push Kevin Pillar for the starting centre field job, especially if the Blue Jays ended up in a rebuilding situation, as they eventually did after a difficult year. He did play in 13 games for the Blue Jays, but it was hardly under the circumstances that Alford, or the club had hoped for.

Alford started the year as the #3 ranked prospect on our list here at Jays Journal, and was given the same ranking by mlb.com, who also had him inside the top 100 overall across the minor leagues. The latest MLB Pipeline rankings weren’t as kind to Alford, as he’s fallen off their list after a disappointing 2018 campaign.

On the plus side, he appeared in a career high 112 games between his short appearance with Toronto, his 105 games in Triple-A, and a few rehab games in High-A as well. Many scouts and fans have always believed that if Alford could stay healthy he would finally put together all the potential we’ve witnessed in short spurts, but that wasn’t the case this season. Unfortunately he slashed just .240/.312/.344, also adding 22 doubles and 17 stolen bases in 24 attempts with Buffalo.

At 24 years old, there is still plenty of time for him to turn the corner and become an above-average major leaguer. Look at recent examples in Toronto like Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, who didn’t turn into elite hitters until their late twenties. However, the whole idea of being an elite prospect starts to fade pretty quickly once you reach Alford’s age, and that’s starting to happen for the Mississippi native.

He’s no longer considered in the top five in the Blue Jays’ system, and you’d be hard pressed to find many that want to include him in the top 10 either. When you combine that with a stronger outfield depth chart than we’ve seen in Toronto in a few years, Alford has some work to do to earn a big league roster spot, or even serious consideration during the rebuild. The big league roster currently employs Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, and Billy McKinney, and there are several other minor leaguers that will look to work their way into the fold. That could include the likes of Dwight Smith Jr., Jonathan Davis, or even Double-A MVP Cavan Biggio, who is working out in the outfield during a Arizona Fall League stint.

Ben Badley of www.baseballamerica.com had similar thoughts about Alford in his piece from yesterday. He rightly pointed out that there are reasons to expect a rebound year given his track record of success, but also admitted, “right now it’s hard to feel comfortable betting on him as an everyday regular.”

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Again, I’m not ready to throw the towel in on the talented outfielder, especially one that has the potential to provide a coveted combination of speed, defence, and even a little power. However, Alford is going to need to show that he’s at least moving in the right direction early in 2019, or there’s a chance he could get forgotten about among the other talented prospects on their way to the Show.

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