The first thing that stands out about Alford is his strong frame and eye-popping athleticism – particularly his double-plus speed – but he also shows some surprisingly advanced skills and feel for someone who spent much of his high school years on the gridiron. He even spent one year as a quarterback at Southern Mississippi, but the third-round pick eventually quit football to focus his talents on the baseball diamond. I think that will turn out to be a wise decision.
Alford is a disciplined hitter who recognizes pitches well. He’ll work deep counts, which has led to high walk rates, but also some high strikeout numbers. His hands are quick but they tend to drift and he’ll sometimes push the ball the opposite way, but I think that’s something that can be easily remedied. Alford has the strength and bat speed to make consistent hard contact, which should translate to at least average home run power down the road, though his swing plane is more conducive to line drives and gap power.
Defensively, Alford has more than enough speed to stick in center field, where he has shown tremendous range when healthy. Like a lot of ex-football players with a muscular build, the arm strength isn’t quite where you’d like it to be. I’d call it fringe average at this point, but his athleticism should make him a plus defender in the outfield overall.
Alford has missed some time due to injuries, including two trips to the disabled list in 2016. He had just over 400 PAs in 92 games last year so he is down here, in part, to get more reps on the field and at the plate.
One other thing that stands out when you talk to scouts is Alford’s makeup, which some describe as off the charts, making it more likely that he will get the most out of his impressive physical tool set.
Alford projects as a top-of-the-order hitter whose combination of natural hitting skills and plate discipline should allow him to put up strong OBP numbers. I think he’ll also develop average power in time. That combination, along with his excellent speed, should make for a dynamic offensive player who should provide plus defense in center field. It all adds up to an exciting all-around player with all-star potential.