Alford projects as a Role 60, occasional All-Star-caliber center fielder for the Blue Jays with a legitimate set of five tools and plus athleticism. But the profile is of the high-risk variety given his injury history, and reaching his ceiling is almost entirely predicated on his ability to stay healthy.
Alford has a well-proportioned, strong, athletic frame. He has a slight open stance with a high hand set-up, and in this viewing he showed a less-pronounced leg kick that was evident when I last saw him last year. He’s keeping his hands and bat quiet when loading, and showing less hand-pump action. He has quick hands and wrists that generate easy-plus bat speed, and he barrels balls up with a very live bat – the ball really jumps, and the hit tool projects as plus.
He is a better hitter when looks to use the opposite field and not be so focused on pulling the ball. His combination of raw strength, the ability to loft the ball, and the leverage in his swing give him plus in-game power potential as well, with 25-plus home runs per year not out of the question at the big league level. He should also settle into above-average on-base capability as well, which is currently at .416 thus far in 2017, well up from his .344 on-base percentage at High A Dunedin last year.
In the field, he projects as a plus center fielder who should stick at the position in the big leagues so long as the health stays good. He shows above-average first-step quickness and it pairs well with plus range thanks to his plus to double-plus speed. Alford shows good defensive instincts, with good lateral quickness and good acceleration, which offsets the fringe average arm, which is enough to carry the position, but he’s not going to be racking up big assist numbers. He showed plus to double-plus speed out of the box (4.20, 4.25, 4.19 seconds from home to first base) which looks like it has decreased some due to his leg injuries, or perhaps because he’s protecting his legs early in the season (in this series, he left the May 6 game after slipping on wet turf and pulling his groin, though he’s continued to play every day since). On the basepaths, he has good instincts, and I can see 20-plus stolen-base potential.
Overall, the package is impressive, and proving his health is one of the few obstacles left on his ascension to the major leagues, as is the Jays’ current roster. With Gold-Glover Kevin Pillar currently occupying center field for the Jays, look for Alford to get some time in the corner spots this season at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, and if the athleticism plays out as expected in either spot, he’ll be in the conversation for a starting role with the big league club on Opening Day in 2018.