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We’ll begin the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays Reflections series in alphabetical order, looking at Anthony Alford. Alford came into 2020 on the bubble, needing to earn a spot on the roster or he would have to be put on waivers because he was out of option years.
The injury-prone outfielder made his big league debut in 2017 and was never able to get into a groove, playing only 33 games over the past three seasons in the major leagues, having made his debut in 2017. While his injuries put a damper on his ability to stick in the lineup, his own performance was also to blame as he had hit just .145/.203/.218 in those 33 games with 23 strikeouts in 59 plate appearances.
When spring training started, the Jays were determined to see what they were going to get from Alford as he played in 13 games, but the results were not any better as he hit .160/.160/.240 in 25 at bats, striking out 14 times. When the season started after summer camp with expanded rosters (30-player rosters to start with), Alford was kept on the big league team and got into games as a late-game replacement with occasional starts. He did start three games in close proximity, between August 16 and 19, getting a pair of hits in nine at bats including a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays. But for the Blue Jays in 2020, he hit just .188/.188/.375 with a single home run and three stolen bases (without getting caught) in just 16 plate appearances, striking out seven times.
At the trade deadline, with the Blue Jays adding several players without dealing off of their major league team, Alford was designated for assignment and claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He got into five games for the Pirates and acquitted himself well, hitting .250/.308/.667 with a home run and a triple in 13 plate appearances, striking out just once before he broke his elbow on a defensive play, ending his season.
If we look at his exit velocity in 2020 (in a small sample size), it was just 81.3 mph, well below the major league average at 88.3 while this season, his launch angle was at just 4.2 degrees, well below the league average of 11.9 degrees. That said, his exit velocity has been declining since his rookie year (when he averaged 90.8 mph but with an average launch angle of 3.4 degrees).
With a ton of athleticism and the potential for so much in the major leagues, the clock finally ran out on Anthony Alford’s time with the Blue Jays. His inability to stay healthy or hit big league pitching well enough to stick led to several minor league stints since he was called up in 2017 but he always tantalized with his talents.
We wish Alford a speedy recovery and all the best with Pittsburgh for 2021 and beyond.
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