To be honest with you, I wasn’t planning on doing a whole lot with day two of the Rule 4 Draft, save for perhaps an update later on with some of the more interesting names that the Jays selected. But then a funny thing happened on the way the Jays clearing money so they can sign Matt Smoral: they selected Anthony Alford.
“Alford has tools galore and the ability to do a lot of exciting things on the baseball field,” writes his scouting report at ESPN.com (Insider Only). “On the negative, he also has that on the football field and has told teams he won’t want to sign if selected.”
Commenter North York Jays has been following along and adds this tidbit underneath the previous post: “The last 2 guys the Jays have taken have left the MLB guys at a complete loss for words, as if they’ve never heard their names mentioned even once. Both were crappy college relievers. They are probably trying to save as much as possible for Smoral and Alford, and I’m curious to see if they’ll punt all the picks from round 4 on to make sure they sign all the guys at the top.”
It’s certainly an interesting notion, and not necessarily a crazy one, but there are perhaps other possibilities too.
If the Jays don’t sign Alford, they lose $424,400 from their pool of available monies for players selected in the first ten round, so there’s incentive for them to sign him– though not as much as there is with their other potential tough sign, Smoral, whose selection at number 50 added $1-million to the club’s pool, according to a pre-draft primer from Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com.
By selecting Alford the Jays could be hedging in case something with Smoral goes awry– as they did last year, selecting Dan Norris seemingly as a backup to first rounder Tyler Beede. They could be creating some leverage for themselves in negotiations with Smoral by having another player they could just as easily give “his” money to, or they could simply be selecting the best player available.
Alford certainly sounds like he qualifies for that. In a chat earlier this spring at ESPN.com, Keith Law answered Alford and Carson Kelly, when asked who could be “the Mike Trout of this year’s draft-not top 10 regarded, but can significantly outperform his draft position?”
At the end of May, ESPNHS selected Alford their Gatorade Mississippi baseball player of the year. “Anthony Alford is an exceptional player,” said Larry Knight, head coach at rival Sumrall (Miss.), in the report. “He’s absolutely a special talent and he’s just on a level above all the others I’ve seen.”
He was ranked 36th on BA’s pre-draft top 500, and number 47 on Keith Law’s top 100 at ESPN. “He may have been the best athlete available in this year’s draft, and he’s a two-sport guy with a commitment to Southern Mississippi to play quarterback. He’s raw as might be expected, but he has power and speed to spare,” writes John Manuel at Baseball America.
But that’s just it: there’s also this little thing called football.
Alford was the Gatorade Mississippi football player of the year for two years running, and has a strong commitment to Sourthern Miss. He was ranked 95th nationally on ESPN’s class of 2012 recruiting board. In another chat, Law says that Alford had “told scouts to stop coming because he’s going to play football,” and the player himself told the Hattiesburg American at the end of May that he’s committed to college and will be playing both sports there. “I think that’s what’s going to make me happy, going to college. If I go pro, it might be for all the wrong reasons. College is what’s best for me.”
Of course, that’s easy to say before a pro team starts dangling millions of dollars in front of your face– and evidently the Jays are it. ”It will be interesting to see — especially given the new Draft system in place in terms of spending — if any team will be willing to give signing him away from the gridiron a shot,” says MLB.com.
We knew they were going to be interesting, creative, and aggressive. Now it looks like they’ve got to carry the same approach forward if they’re going to get their big draftees actually signed.
Here’s MLB.com’s brief scouting video on Alford’s baseball skills. At the time of this writing (through the seventh round) the Jays have only selected college players in the rounds since taking Alford.
Image via the Hattiesburg American.