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Anthony Alford a Vancouver Canadian?

In the never-ending quest to predict the Vancouver Canadians opening day roster prior to…..Opening Day, some interesting bits of intelligence are starting to filter over the airwaves. The MLB draft takes place from the 6th through 8th of June which will provide a chunk of the roster. As we get closer to the draft, the requisite number of ‘mock drafts’ are beginning to appear. I’ll endeavour to look more closely at what the Jays may do over the coming week or so. Aside from that, I am seeing the odd piece here and there that deal with Extended Spring Training. One that opened my eyes was from Sportsnet insider Shi Davidi who writes that both top prospects D.J. Davis and Anthony Alford could join Vancouver.

I think the operative word of Shi’s piece is ‘could’. I think Davis coming back to Vancouver is a no-brainer. I had predicted he would end up in Lansing with Dalton Pompey but once he was left behind in Extended, the logical move is to test him against the older competition in the Northwest League before looking to possible promote him later. As per what we saw at the Nat last season and this extended spring training visitor’s views, Davis is still very raw, with more than a few holes in his game. At his age, there is no real need to rush him.

What did surprise me, was the claim that Alford may end up in British Columbia. Honestly, if it wasn’t Davidi doing the reporting (who works for Rogers, who, of course, also own the Jays), I’d raise my eyebrows at this one.

I did a series over at Jays Journal this off-season, running through all the picks of the 2012 draft, where they played, what to expect of them in 2013 etcetera. Interspersed with these pieces were three editions of what came to be known as the Anthony Alford Anthology which ran through his on campus arrest at the University of Southern Mississippi, the reduction in charges and scholarship release, and finally the confirmation of his transfer to Ole Miss.

In that last article, I brought up two points, which, for me at least, were genuine red flags in regards to Alford’s future baseball

Will two sport start Anthony Alford spend parts of 2013 in Vancouver? (photo courtesy of mlbprospectportal.com)

Will two sport start Anthony Alford spend parts of 2013 in Vancouver? (photo courtesy of mlbprospectportal.com)

career. The first was his willingness to red shirt a year at Ole Miss with no guarantee regarding the football team. The second was his statement that he was willing to change positions ‘just to be on the team and anything I can do to help the team.’

As Alford’s Ole Miss profile and Davidi’s article confirm, the now ex-quarterback will be switching to defensive back at his new school. The same paragraph from Shi’s piece that confirms the position change also gives us this interesting quote:

‘There’s a school of thought that the environment in Vancouver plus the day-to-day life of professional ball combined with the reality that Alford must miss a year of football because of his transfer (he also will be switching to cornerback from quarterback) may convince him to focus exclusively on baseball.’

Again, maybe the Rogers employee has some inside information. But for me, a kid who is willing to change schools, redshirt for a year, and give up on the most glamorous position on the field, is definitely not done with football.

In fact, if I were to speculate, I’d guess that the outfielder is probably more focused on gridiron than baseball and if made to choose, would go with the former. Which is why I was not as excited as I should have been after reading Davidi’s news. If you’d told me six months ago that Alford would play in Vancouver, I’d have been over the moon. There is no doubting his athletic ability. In fact, many experts had him as the highest grading pure athlete in last year’s draft. But, as the Jays have found out, all too often in the last couple of years, high ceiling athletes don’t always make great baseball players.

Hitting a baseball is the toughest thing in all of sports to do. Which is why there are six to seven minor league teams per organization. It is an absolute grind of hard work and preparation, not just natural ability, that gets a player to the big leagues. If Anthony takes four years of college football to figure out that he wants to be a baseball player, then the game will pass him by.

That all being said. I do hope he ends up in Vancouver. An outfield consisting of Davis in center, Alford in right, and possibly Nico Taylor in left could be very exciting. They could even go as far as making the cavernous Nat Bailey outfield looks small with the plus speed they possess.

One question that still needs answering (and I did tweet Shi, funnily enough, he didn’t answer) is how many games Alford will get into this year.  In 2012 it was only five before he had to head off to spring football practices.  With no football to worry about in 2013 though, theoretically he could play a full (short) season.  And if you read between the lines of Davidi’s quote above, it does seem to infer that he’ll be around for a bit.

I’m assuming here though, and that always bites me in the arse.  It’ll be the first question I ask Alford, if and when he does show up.

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