Better get away from Oxford Town…
Who says the Jays don’t have money?
Apparently they have at least a little money, because according to a report from Hugh Kellenberger of Jackson, Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger, they offered some of it to 2012 draft pick Anthony Alford.
The Toronto Blue Jays wanted Anthony Alford’s undivided attention.
Alford finished up his third professional baseball season last month, and the Ole Miss athlete said the last day came with a surprise.
“The (general manager) came down and tried to talk to me,” Alford said. “He put some deals on the table and made it difficult on me.”
It was a five-year deal, Alford admitted.
Alford is a player we’ve watched for two tumultuous years, as he’s gone from a $750K bonus baby who slipped for to the fourth round due to signability concerns and concerns about his commitment to football, to a struggling quarterback at Southern Mississippi, to a student involved in an arrest drama involving a weapon, to player who transferred to Ole Miss and sat out all of 2013, then switched to defensive back, where he’s slated to play for the Rebels this college football season.
Not a lot of baseball talk in there, but there still is enough promise in him that he remains very much on our radar — so much promise, evidently, that the Jays were willing to make a long-term commitment (though presumably not for a tonne of money).
Marc Hulet wrote about Alford this summer for FanGraphs.
In an organization that has struggled to develop home-grown hitters, Alford is an intriguing commodity. The club has already committed a $750,000 bonus, a third-round draft slot (He was arguably a fringe-first-round talent with signability concerns) and conceded at least three years of development to the Mississippi native. Because he’s not a top-of-the-line NFL prospect, Toronto may still be able to sway him to turn his attentions to the diamond on a full-time basis but it will hopefully be sooner rather than later.
At this rate, he’ll continue to fall further and further behind his same-aged peers and he also risks serious injury while playing football. Not only that, he has only two more years of development after this season before the Jays have to decide whether or not to offer him an all-import 40-man roster spot to protect him from the advances of other organizations in the Rule 5 draft.
Despite the negatives, Hulet generally came away impressed with Alford, particularly because of some nice-looking numbers — albeit in very small sample sizes — that speak to his natural abilities, given that he’s spent so much of the last two years away from the diamond.
In Bluefield this year, Alford made just 35 plate appearances, striking out in 37.1% of those, but posting a .343 on-base, despite just a .207 batting average, thanks to five walks he took during that span. Up a level at Lansing he was even better, in an even smaller sample of 25 plate appearances. For the Lugnuts he posted a 126 wRC+ as a 19-year-old in a league where the average hitter is 2.5 years older. He did so not by walking, but with eight hits in those 25 PA, including a double, a home run, and four stolen bases (with no caught stealings) to boot.
Yeah, the samples are tiny, but obviously there is talent there. Unfortunately, Alford simply isn’t ready to give up football yet.
“Football was my first love and even if I made $100 million dollars down the road in baseball, I’d still regret not giving football a shot,” he told Kellenberger.
Seems crazy to me, but he surely knows himself better than I do. The Clarion-Ledger piece also suggests he could even see some time back at quarterback this year, could factor into Ole Miss’s return game, and could see significant snaps in the defensive backfield. So… there’s something there, too. Maybe he’ll prove himself a better prospect than most have given him credit for.
Or maybe he’ll simply slip farther behind his peers on the baseball field, and realize too late which sport he really could have made an impact in. Hopefully it works out, both for him and for the Jays. Hopefully he stays healthy through the football season, too.