Blue Jays prospect Anthony Alford keeps rolling in Arizona Fall League

Anthony Alford is one of nine Toronto Blue Jays minor-leaguers playing in the Arizona Fall League this season

Sending outfield prospect Anthony Alford to the Arizona Fall League this off-season was one of the Blue Jays’ easiest decisions.

Alford is as raw as a 22-year-old top-five positional prospect can get with just 224 games and 998 plate appearances on his resume in the minor leagues. Injuries caused Alford to spend much of the 2016 season playing below 100%, posting a final average of .236 with nine home runs.

His early performance and scouting reports from Arizona, however, continue to be encouraging.

Through 20 games with the Mesa Solar Sox, Alford is now hitting .265 with three home runs and 15 RBI. He’s added three doubles, a triple, and 10 walks to produce a .359 on-base percentage. An advanced plate approach for his experience level projects Alford as having a strong on-base tool, even if his strikeout totals have been high over the past two seasons in single-A and advanced-A. That’s an area Alford should improve on as he sees more live action.

His home run on Friday came off Jalen Beeks, a left-handed pitching prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization. MLB Pipeline ranks Beeks as the organization’s number 29 prospect.

Alford’s speed remains a plus tool that could impact MLB games tomorrow, but an assumption often incorrectly made with fast players is that they come with little power. This isn’t the case with Alford, who looks even stronger than his six-foot-one, 215-pound frame. Add this to Alford’s enticing defensive upside, and the Blue Jays have a dynamic, multi-tool prospect.

The recent signing of Cuban free agent Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will bring some debate as to whether Alford remains the organization’s top outfield prospect, but the two should not be paralleled as much as they will be in the coming year.

Gurriel is closer to being MLB-ready after playing extensively in Cuba and is expected to start the season with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He’ll also be experimenting with some shortstop and has the ability to play second base or the corner outfields. Alford is a pure outfielder, but his time playing the corners in Arizona is worth noting.

The Fall League is a common place for teams to experiment with positions, such as an outfielder dabbling with third base or a catcher test-driving first. Alford seeing time in the corners isn’t groundbreaking, but having a level of positional flexibility will only help his case as he moves through the system.

Centre-fielder Kevin Pillar isn’t scheduled to become a free agent until 2021, so as long as the Blue Jays stick with him at the Major League level, outfield prospects will need to learn the corners. Expect to see Alford tested with double-A pitching in 2017, which could be a springboard season towards him competing for a roster spot sometime in 2018.

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